Women in Construction: The State of the Industry in 2021
Date: January 19, 2021 by: Lior Zitzman Share this article:
When you think of an industry dominated by men, construction might be one of the first that comes to mind.
Of all the people working in construction, women comprise only 10.3 percent. Even smaller is the number of women on the front lines of a job site—only one for every 100 employees in the field. Considering that women make up 47 percent of all employed individuals, this means that the construction industry is only benefitting from about 1.25 percent of women in the workforce.
There are several factors that explain this enormous gender gap, from unconscious gender bias, to the lack of adequate training, to overall perceptions of women working in construction. Despite these barriers, women continue to build their path in the industry. According to Randstad, nearly one-third of companies promoted a woman to a senior position in 2018.
As new construction projects are expected to stabilize and return to low growth in 2021, and new construction industry jobs are expected to balloon by almost 2 million in 2022, companies are looking to recruit more women than ever before to bring their skill sets into the field.
So, how are women rising up in construction in 2021? To answer this question, we compiled key statistics and examined the backgrounds of women leaders from around the construction industry. Check out the infographic below to learn more.
Our study shows that although women are still underrepresented, they are making significant progress as leaders in the industry. A substantial portion of women executives and construction managers entered those roles in the last 5 years, suggesting that companies are more recently promoting women to leadership roles. Furthermore, companies and associations are increasing their efforts to promote women in their organizations and educate young women about the benefits of working in the industry.
Learning Resources for Women in Construction
To enter a competitive and dangerous field like construction, women have a multitude of resources available to them that address their specific needs in the industry:
Nationally recognized groups like the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and Women Construction Owners & Executives USA provide mentorship, marketing and networking opportunities to help women who are new to the construction industry. Jenny Brongo, president and owner of Brongo Contracting and Supply in Rochester, NY, learned from the NAWIC how to successfully run her business after the passing of her father.
In certain areas of the country, large construction companies collaborate with the local community to offer courses and boot-camp programs for young girls and any women interested in the industry. Many cities also offer apprenticeship programs that strive to recruit women, prepare them for exams, and train them with job-specific skills.
Construction Forums and Conferences
A number of conferences are held to celebrate and discuss the topic of women in construction. NAWIC’s Annual Conference includes professionals seminars and workshops for women, while the Groundbreaking Women in Construction conference provides management training and teaches women how to bridge pay gaps in their workplace.
In addition to conferences, women can stay up to date in the industry with blogs like Constructing Equality and Tradeswomen, which aim to tackle issues of diversity, provide original research, highlight scholarship opportunities, and share personal stories and anecdotes.
Diversity Drives Performance
Although more diverse representation in the construction industry isn’t a reality today, this report by McKinsey & Co. reveals that the most gender-diverse companies are 25 percent more likely to achieve above-average profitability than companies with less diversity. With 2021 shaping up to be a year of growth for the industry, hiring more women is an optimal way to capitalize on that expansion.
In fact, that report found that construction companies with more women in executive line roles than staff roles experienced above-average financial performance compared to those companies that didn’t. When 30 percent or more of executive-level positions were filled by women, those companies had a 48 percent likelihood of outperforming their least-diverse competitors.
Although more diversity brings about more success, Randstad found that women executives are more likely to occupy staff roles (14 percent) than line roles (7 percent). This is in stark contrast to men in executive roles, with 33 percent operating as staff executives and 46 percent as line executives.
How Can Companies Recruit More Women?
There is still much work to be done to fully include women in construction. To increase recruitment and improve retention, companies need to acknowledge and remove gender bias from their work culture, develop training programs and local mentorship groups specific to the needs of women, include more women in the hiring process, and encourage women to become role models for other women. Schools and educational programs need to highlight the value of construction jobs for women and young girls so that they can see the industry as a viable career path.
The shortage of labor in the industry presents an opportunity to hire even more women in construction jobs. As advancements in construction technology have grown, many companies are hesitant in trying them out for a variety of reasons, including a lack of staff. Hiring and training women in the IT departments of construction companies can help with the staff shortage and advance their diversity.
Although there are obstacles for women to enter construction, diversity is a proven asset in driving profitability and a key component in solving the construction industry’s labor shortage. With more and more groundbreaking women chipping away at gendered norms and leveling the playing field, the industry is taking bigger steps at becoming a more diverse and inclusive space for future generations.