Encouraging Initiatives and Opportunities for
Women in Construction
August 25, 2020
Why aren’t there more women in construction?
It’s a simple question with complex answers. Societal influences and gender biases can start as early as preschool. For example, several studies have noted that when children were asked to draw a mathematician or scientist, boys almost universally drew men, while girls were twice as likely to draw men as they were to draw women. These early influences and biases only seem to increase in adolescents when girls have more male STEM teachers and trailblazing women in science and technology are rarely discussed in the classroom.
We think about our careers long before we ever enter the workforce, and women considering a career in construction have faced an uphill battle. Women working in construction today continue to break that glass ceiling, but the misconceptions and stereotypes of women in the trade marches on, with some companies still hiring mostly people that fit a certain masculine stereotype.
No wonder we don’t see a lot of women in construction, where their representation hovers around 10%. Out on the actual job sites, that number plummets to 1%. And they’re certainly outnumbered in the industry’s front offices occupied by traditionally male-dominated science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) disciplines.
Despite the numbers, things are changing for the better.
Over the last couple of decades, initiatives across the country have sprung up to encourage women to enter, grow and lead within the industry. They run the gamut from national events and conferences, to local and regional programs with mentorship and networking opportunities. Some focus on specific trades, others encompass the broader construction industry.
It all couldn’t come at a better time. With older workers retiring or otherwise leaving the industry, there’s increased demand for construction labor — particularly those who are savvy and comfortable with technology. Combined with the initiatives below to support and encourage them, it’s a prime opportunity for women to step in to fill the gap at all levels, from the job site to the front office.
Initiatives and opportunities for women in construction
Many of the in-person initiatives (such as conferences and networking) scheduled in 2020 are now either virtual, postponed or canceled altogether due to the current pandemic. Visit the linked websites below for details about these opportunities and the organizations themselves.
- Chicago Women in the Trades (CWIT)
Advocates for equal access to education, information and jobs. Also offers leadership development and apprenticeships.
- Professional Women in Construction (PWC)
PWC has chapters in major metro areas in the eastern U.S. that provide resources for women in architecture, engineering, construction and related industries.
- Women Construction Owners & Executives (WCOE)
Promotes women-owned companies, shapes related legislation and fosters leadership opportunities.[/green]
- Women in Construction Operations (WIOPS)
Serving California, provides mentoring and resources for female general contractors, subcontractors, engineers and architects, owner’s reps and construction managers.
- Women in NECA – National Electrical Contractors Association
Promotes professional development, professional and cultural diversity, and job opportunities.
- Women in Skilled Trades (WIST)
This Michigan-based resource offers educational events and apprenticeship programs for single moms wanting to enter the skilled trades.
- Women in Solar Program
Promotes gender diversity and training programs in the growing solar industry.
On the younger end of the spectrum, there’s been a growing effort to inspire girls of all ages to enter the construction field. Several organizations and companies around the country host daytime events or week-long camps for those interested in learning about the trades. Add to this the active efforts to encourage them to pursue STEM classes that can expand their horizons to consider traditionally male occupations.
- Build Like a Girl
Sponsored by Miron Construction, this free annual event TREATS 7th-10th grade girls to a day-long construction experience in Wisconsin.
- Rosie’s Girls
This Vermont-based program teaches middle-school girls basic knowledge about the trades as well as social “power skills.”
- Tools and Tiaras
Inspiring and mentoring girls from elementary through high school, as well as women, who want to learn about construction through camps, chapters and workshops.
Industry employers can support women in construction
Employers are in a position to build on the work of these organizations by supporting women in their own recruitment and retention initiatives. This must be championed by executive leadership, where initiating and sustaining such efforts will have the greatest impact.
It’s no different at InEight. We believe women are critical to the success not only of our company, but the industry. And we’re proud of those we have on our team, such as Catie Williams, Vice President of Product Management.
“As a woman in a traditionally male dominated field (construction) … I have been really fortunate to work with amazing, strong women in leadership who are also excellent mentors. They have had a significant impact on my career, having helped hone and sharpen my strengths, as well as help build my courage and confidence to lead. It is important as women to foster an environment of support for other women, building each other up, advocating and encouraging women as they grow and rise to leadership roles. InEight is positioned in a great way to help increase young women’s and girls’ interest in STEM through both technology and construction. With all the initiatives focused on women and girls in STEM, I am encouraged that soon we won’t think of construction as a predominately male field.”
Catie Williams, Vice President of Product Management, InEight