How Women Can Overcome Challenges to Working in Male-Dominated Industries
Most people associated construction with male workers. The stereotypical image of a construction worker that comes to mind is a strong man, covered in soil, wearing a hard hat and vest. With more than 90% of today’s construction workforce being male, that image is not entirely false.
It is hard to argue the fact that women have been significantly underrepresented in the construction industry. In current time, there are few industries that remain predominantly male. Other “traditional” male industries include, first responders, military and law enforcement have worked diligently to welcome more women into their ranks, while construction has remained one of the few male-dominated fields. In other job categories, women, who currently make nearly half of the total working population, are well represented. However, only 9% of people employed in construction are women. But the reality is changing.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 1990 women made up less than 2% of the construction workforce. And in 1990, a higher percentage of women in the construction industry worked primarily in office and administration jobs.
Due to a labor shortage, women are now actively being recruited to become construction site managers, heavy equipment operators, skilled contractors and more. A recent report from National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) implied that with all types of construction workers being in high-demand, women are finding it easier to find a job, and are finding more employers looking to hire women.
While more women are becoming interested in a career in construction, there’s no denying that the industry presents challenges. Not only are women outnumbered, women who do work in the industry are navigating through a world that has long been tailored to men’s needs and wants. While changes are being made, some aspects of the construction world may come as a surprise to some women. For instance, from the hard hat to something as simple as using the restroom, women in construction are going to encounter challenges.
RESOURCES FOR WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION
More organizations are being formed in the industry to support women. NAWIC and Women Construction Owners & Executives USA are great examples. These groups provide mentorship, marketing and networking opportunities to help women who are new to the construction industry.
In many areas of the country, construction companies will work together with the local community to provide training courses for women and young females interested in the construction industry. Many cities also offer apprenticeship programs that strive to recruit women, prepare them for exams, and train them with job-specific skills.
There are many conferences held to highlight 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.
Women can also stay up to date in the industry with blogs like Constructing Equality and Tradeswomen, which tackle issues of diversity, provide original research, highlight scholarship opportunities, and share personal stories and anecdotes.
There is still much work to be done to fully include women in construction. With 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. Careers in construction and the heavy equipment industry can deliver life-long opportunities for women.
Written by Ladi Goldwire
Ladi Goldwire is a State licensed General Contractor and Building Code Administrator certified through the International Code Council. She has over 15 years of experience in the construction industry. She owns BrinMar Construction & Development Group Ltd., a design build company.