How Women in Construction Positively Impact Profits and Collaboration
The construction workforce is evolving in many positive ways, especially as it actively embraces diversity and technology. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most male-dominated industries in the world. Out of the over 10 million construction workers in the US, a little less than one million are female. Even more unbalanced is when you look at the percentage of female construction laborers actually in the field; 1%. That’s right.
On your average jobsite, there is approximately one woman to every 100 men.
So, why the lack of women in construction? A career in construction offers plenty of opportunities and benefits, but it’s a long ways away from balancing the male to female ratio. While it’s easy to blame factors like lack of sufficient education and promotion from apprenticeship programs and universities to encourage women to enter the field, there’s not just one thing that contributes to the lack of females in the profession. Recruitment bias, company cultures where harassment isn’t thoroughly addressed and even reasons as simple as tools and gear not made for women in mind, also all play a critical role into why more women aren’t considering building as a career. Nonetheless, if it takes a village to build up anything meaningful, likewise, it will take a comprehensive commitment from individuals, companies, schools and governments to truly balance the workforce for the better.
In addition to supporting gender equality from a human rights and diversity inclusion perspective, attracting and retaining more women in the construction workforce has major economic benefits. In fact, according to the Peterson Institute, companies who were in the top 25% in gender diversity of their workforce were 46% more likely to outperform their industry average.
This year, Women in Construction Week is March 4-10 and International Women’s Day is March 8, but the industry needs way more than just a day, or a week, to truly support and advance women in the field. Below, take a look (and share) our Women in Construction infographic which includes tips on how construction companies can encourage and recruit more female talent. Read on to also learn more context behind the figures and why promoting more women in construction should matter to builders and companies around the world.
Women in Construction: A Global Problem
Only 9.1% of women compose the construction workforce in the US, and it is far from an individual country issue. In the UK, women only compose approximately 12.4% of the country’s construction workforce. In Canada, fewer women are even beginning their careers in construction–only 11% of women composing new apprenticeship training registrants in inter-provincially recognized Red Seal skilled trades. In Australia, since 12% of the construction workforce are women and leave the trade 39% faster than men, it has been cited by the Sydney Morning Herald as “the last frontier for women at work.”
In some countries, the construction workforce gender balance is more equal. Nonetheless, other serious inequalities have not been addressed. For instance, in Cambodia, one in three construction workers are female. Despite doing the same hard work, these women are often paid around half of what their male counterparts make.
The Gender Pay Gap in Construction: A Deceptive Number
While the 95.7% US gender pay gap in construction is narrower than the nationwide average of approximately 80%, numbers can be deceiving. The truth is, women of color (as well as men of color) are more impacted by the pay gap when compared with their white male counterparts. This exists in practically all major industries and construction is far from an exception. Just a few statistics to chew on:
- On average, black women earn $0.81 for every $1.00 paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as construction laborers.
- For Hispanic women in construction-related occupations, this pay gap is even greater, where they make 71.7% of Hispanic men’s and only 50.4% of white men’s earnings in the field.
In actuality, construction companies need to be more diligent about closing the pay gap not only by gender but also by addressing equal pay policies across also race, age and education level. Without a commitment to level the playing field across all demographics, the gap will further discourage diverse talent from entering and benefiting the industry.
Promote and Prosper: A Need for More Women in Leadership Positions
The building industry has a great deal of improvement it can make to support women in leadership positions. Although more women are needed at all job levels in construction, significant change is most likely to come from the top down. As mentioned above, more women in the workforce, especially in leadership and management positions, is beneficial for a company’s profits. Furthermore, a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research also highlights that more women in leadership are helpful for a company’s overall collaboration because women are more likely to work cooperatively than men. As construction professionals already know, projects require a high-level of collaboration in order to be successful, and adding individuals with an affinity towards this type of communication can only improve your overall workforce productivity.
Discouragingly, expectations for women in leadership, in general, is low. In fact, 1 in 4 Americans believes it’s more likely humans will colonize on Mars than that half of Fortune 500 CEOs will be women. However, while only around 13% of construction firms are women-owned, out of this small percentage, 9% of these firms achieve revenues of over $500,000 or more. When compared to the 8% of all firms achieving this threshold, it’s clear that women in leadership are making a huge impact on profitability for companies.
Support Women in Construction Today
Supporting and encouraging women in construction is easier said than done, with a big “how” missing from the equation. Nonetheless, an active commitment to education and recruitment in addition to an open conversation to balance the workforce and narrow the pay gap from thought-leaders, companies and institutions are important places to begin. In our infographic above, we’ve shared several of the top associations for women in construction. These professional organizations are great stepping stones for women looking to connect and leverage the efforts of others in the field. Furthermore, industry-events like Groundbreaking Women in Construction, Women in Construction Summit and NAWIC Annual Conference are also important podiums to support and amplify female voices in the industry.
If you’re looking to read more about inspirational women in construction, Construction Dive has released an interview series about female leaders in the industry. This month, we’ll also be sharing stories of women at PlanGrid on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and we encourage you to comment and share your stories. Follow us and learn about the women building technology for the construction industry.
We need to work on amplifying our voices together to ultimately build better. Share this post and infographic by clicking the social icons below (or above).