Since the construction industry has been heavily dominated by males for so many years, women might be reluctant at first to even consider working in construction jobs. Yet, a growing number of organizations are focusing more of their resources on recruiting women into this profession because they make up at least half of the country’s available workers, they help to establish a more balanced workforce, and they can help alleviate the ongoing talent shortage.
There are a variety of different programs with the purpose of encouraging women to consider construction careers. Sisters in Brotherhood supports female members by providing assistance in obtaining craft training and leadership skills; by being advocates on women issues; and by mentoring new members and even potential members. Some other popular programs aimed at recruiting more women in construction include Non-Traditional Employment for Women and Oregon Tradeswomen cater specifically to females.
Industry experts continue to stress that the profession needs to be promoted to students before their high school years when gender notions have already been assumed. It’s appropriate for men to be nurses, secretaries, etc., if they have the necessary skills. Likewise, it’s perfectly acceptable for women to enter the construction trade. Although women might be the minority in this specific industry; it’s important to broadcast the message that there are exciting and rewarding opportunities waiting for them across the construction industry.
It’s important for companies to cultivate a mentorship program from within so that women can hone their skills and grow their confidence in order to advance in the industry. Many women feel like they need to compromise who they are to fit in. Taylor Morrison CEO Sheryl Palmer spoke with Construction Dive on the topic of women in construction. She stated the importance of being true to yourself and not compromising who you are to fit in with a male-dominated field. She shared her thoughts:
“Don’t lose who you are. I have spent a lot of years coaching women who felt they had to be someone different, and when you have to be someone different and you can’t be your best you, I think so much is compromised, certainly your self-respect, and if you lose that, your ability to lead is compromised. My counsel is to own it and own it proud. Our differences are good. Don’t compete by being someone you’re not. Compete by being every bit of who you are.”
Mentorship programs can help alleviate some of that bias. When a company has women in powerful roles, they can then allow her to mentor other women to help them rise to be their best.
Here are some additional recommendations for attracting and retaining more women in construction, courtesy of Balfour Beatty:
- Supporting career advancement. Regardless of industry, staff should be rewarded and promoted on results rather than just on the basis of those who are confident enough to demand a promotion or pay rise. Companies must ensure that they are tackling any embedded gender bias which may exist in terms of deciding which individuals to promote.
- Tackling pay imbalances. Many women remain reluctant to consider construction careers due to a gender pay gap that is higher than the national average.
- Encouraging career extensions for mature women. Steps to encourage career extensions can range from flexible working, or moving to a shorter working week, help with succession planning or retirement planning for example.
- Holding conferences and other events to celebrate and inspire women in the business and in the industry more widely.
- Actively promoting and encouraging our women to enter awards.
Even though there may be no quick solutions, organizations that consider some of these strategies can help to reduce gender imbalance in the construction industry over time.
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