Throughout 2016, construction companies have been emphasizing the lack of quality employees available to fill jobs. In fact, it’s so drastic that jobs are being delayed and some positions are even being canceled because companies can’t find the workers to fill them.
Despite the desperate need for employees, it’s estimated that only 9.5 percent of construction employees are female. If there is such a need for workers, then why aren’t there more women in construction?
The Construction Industry is Not Discriminating
If you want to point a finger of blame at the lack of women in the construction industry, don’t point it at the industry itself. In 2014, it’s estimated the average female construction worker’s pay was worth about 93 percent of what male workers were paid. Much of the discrepancy in pay comes from women who work for non-union companies, and the fact that women are often not offered the amount of overtime men get.
In New York City, a program called Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) that helps to train women and get them into apprenticeships through local trade unions. The unions and several construction companies support the initiative, and the program estimates that it has placed at least 1,000 women into apprenticeship programs from 2005 to 2016. Unions and construction companies are working together to create opportunities in the construction industry for the women who want them. So what is the problem?
The Slow Rate of Change in Construction
The construction industry has a reputation for resisting change in almost any form. It has taken the construction industry decades to start experimenting with new technology that could make the construction process easier, and the status of women in the construction industry is also showing a lot of strength when it comes to holding its ground.
In Capital Heights, Maryland, the federal government completed an investigation that uncovered significant sexual discrimination at one of the area’s largest construction companies. The company went so far as to fire several employees, male and female, who spoke out against the oppressive working conditions. This is the type of response to women in the construction industry that has traditionally turned women away from the idea of working in the industry.
Job sites are filled with instances where women are sexually harassed, or they constantly have to prove themselves to male employees who do not think women can do construction work. It is important to remember that not every job in construction requires heavy lifting or strenuous work, but these stereotypes exist.
Making Inroads for Women
Along with NEW, organizations such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) are starting to create avenues for women to use to get into the construction industry. Labor unions around the country have indicated that they need to hire more women and minorities, but the number of women stepping up to get involved in programs is not keeping up with the growing need.
The Department of Labor has dedicated $100 million to establishing programs with labor unions all over the country that encourage women and minorities to get involved in apprenticeship programs, but there is a long way to go. The problems with discrimination against women in the construction workplace continue to keep women away, and it is difficult to lure women into an industry that makes it sometimes feel like women are not wanted.
Timing is Also a Factor
The Department of Labor estimates that the number of women in construction grew by nearly 81 percent from 1985 to 2007. The need for workers was rising, and women were finding roles within the construction industry that they were good at. Without any of the support that is now being offered by unions and the government, women were finding their way in the world of construction.
But when the real estate bubble burst in 2008, everything went chaotic quickly. Construction jobs were being cut at an alarming rate, and women were often the first to be let go, no matter what position they held. When the smoke cleared in 2010, the number of women in construction had plummeted and the intense competition for the jobs that were opening up during the recovery held women out of any new jobs that were being opened up.
In 2016, the construction industry is reinvestigating its need to diversify its workforce as there is a desperate need for skilled labor. Many of the jobs that women had shown proficiency in, such as carpentry and masonry, are now short on employees to the point where the industry could see employment drop again because of a lack of qualified employees.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The NAWIC has 127 chapters all around the country that are all finding success in getting women involved in the construction industry. At a time when construction companies desperately need workers, the construction industry has realized that it needs to change its ways if it wants to get revenue back on track.
The problem for the construction industry is not that there are not enough ways for women to find success in construction. The problem is that there is a lack of women who want to take on the challenge of working in construction. But the industry is doing a very good job of promoting its successes in bringing women into the fold, and the hope is that positive stories from women who work in construction will start to inspire others to take on the task.
Women construction executives and activists are working together to let women around the country know about the real opportunities in construction. With a combined effort between unions and the federal government, the hope is that the population of female construction workers will start to rise soon.
If you want to know more about how the landscape for women in construction is changing, then start a course with PDH Contractors and get all of the up to date information you need. PDH Contractors can help you with your ongoing education needs, and we can also work with you to help you pass your state licensing test as well.