Picture a construction work site. You might think of heavy machinery, lumber and other building materials, and hard-hat wearing workers. These are all typical aspects of a build site. Think about it again: those workers— are they men or women?
Historically, and even currently, men vastly outnumber women in the construction field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), that outnumbering is currently at 9 to 1. This number actually represents the closing of a gap in which women have been outnumbered by men by a much higher margin in the past.
Think now about the current state of affairs in the construction work force in terms of hiring and retention. The BLS shows that as of December 2022, there were 413,000 job openings in construction nationwide. At the same time, there were 925,000 women nationwide who were unemployed but looking for work. While the majority of those women may not be likely to be looking for work in construction, the time is ripe for the construction industry to make some adjustments to attract some of those women to the field. After all, women could be the key to solving the labor shortage problem in construction.
The main problem then is how to interest and incorporate more women in construction. We must consider what the construction industry offers that women want and how industry members can tailor their recruitment efforts to successfully find and hire the best women for the positions that need to be filled.
While the construction industry is among the industries doing the best at closing the pay gap between men and women (in construction on average, women make 95.5% of men’s pay, compared with the overall number of 83% for hourly wages), there is still some work to be done here. Your company can—and should— work to evaluate its payment practices and scales in order to ensure that women are paid at the same rate for the same education/ training, skill-level, and seniority as your male employees.
Relatedly, pay ranges specifically calibrated to your labor market will help you be more competitive, and will help human resources and management to make better, data-driven pay decisions. Additionally, pay ranges are rapidly becoming necessary for regulatory compliance, and legally required to be provided during the recruitment process in a growing number of states and cities.
It is vital to acknowledge that the best recruitment of female employees will be sure to take into account the kinds of positions women are more likely to be interested in working at. Currently in both engineering and construction fields, women are much more likely to hold office and managerial roles than entry-level roles in the field. While there is nothing stopping women who want to be involved in the manual labor of the work site, experience shows that they are more likely to have interest in other construction roles. Focusing on recruiting women for managerial and office positions will likely have more success.
As we already discussed pay, it is worth noting here— and in your recruitment efforts— that management and office jobs in construction pay much better than the entry-level work.
Data collected by the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) shows that efforts to interest women in construction should start not when they are ready to enter the workforce as adults, but should begin with girls who are still forming their ideas about what their futures might hold. NAWIC interacts with girls through several of their programs: through Block Kids Building they engage with Girl Scout troops, they offer Create Design Build! and Design Drafting days geared towards adolescent girls, and host Camp NAWIC for teen girls, all with the intention of interesting them in the construction field as a possible career option.
When your company attends or hosts recruitment events, such as career days, be sure to include women from the company among the recruiters. Their involvement will pay dividends in attracting women and girls for the future of your company and the industry at large.
The working environment of your company also has a large role to play in women’s interest, or lack thereof, in working for you. There are several points here to consider.
As your company looks ahead to your attempts to address its own place in the construction worker shortage, the above blog post is worth serious consideration. The labor market holds greater competition than ever before for talent, and regulatory focus continues to narrow on pay transparency and discriminatory hiring practices. Your company’s future depends on you reviewing these things now and setting your business up in the best way to attract, retain, and reward your great employees. Do you currently have available jobs for women in construction? Learn how our Hiring team can help you recruit and land the perfect candidate.
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