By the end of 2016, there were about 939,000 women working in construction, making up 9.1% of the workers in the industry. While the industry is making strides in overcoming the stigma of blue-collar work is solely a man’s job, it still has a long way to go in comparison to other jobs. Just take a look at these stats from the US Department of Labor Blog:

  • Women make up 26% of managers in the Computers and IT System industry
  • More than 1 in 3 lawyers are women
  • 60% of pharmacists are women
  • Women make up 11% of civil engineers

So why is construction so slow to hire women? And what’s being done about it? Before we get to that, let’s explore why blue collar work is a great career for women.

Why Construction is a Great Career for Women

One reason why this is a great industry for women (and men alike!) is how easy and inexpensive it is to get started. If you want to change careers but can’t afford a 4-year degree, jobs like construction, carpentry, and welding have a low cost of entry. Some trade jobs require a two-year trade school program that includes an internship. Others only require a half-day certification course or skip the classroom for on-the-job training.

Better pay is another reason why jobs in the construction field are great for women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in construction earn 97 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. With a focus on hard skills, the industry naturally lends itself to gender equality when it comes to pay. While it’s not 100%, the pay gap is much narrow than other industries, where women only earn 80 cents on the dollar.

Check out our video documentary Women in Blue Collar.

Can Women Be the Answer to the Skilled Labor Shortage?

The rise in home construction, immigration restrictions, lack of interest, and the growing skills gap are just a few reasons behind the construction labor shortage. According to the National Association of Home Builders, this industry needs approximately 275,000 workers and that number is expected to rise. Is getting more female workers the answer to the shortage? Data from the US Department of Labor seems to think so. If the number of women in the industry doubled, the shortage wouldn’t exist. So why is construction having a tough time attracting this type of talent?

What’s Holding Women Back from the Field

There are a few reasons as to why construction companies struggle to attract more female workers. For one, the industry still hasn’t managed to completely shake the stigma of being a job that is only for men. Not only does it increase the chances of blue collar work not being considered by women, but it can also seep into the recruitment process, creating a bias that bar the women who do apply. The construction industry as a whole has also been slow to adopt company cultures where female workers are respected and not harassed while working. Finally, as with millennials, the benefits of this line of work aren’t widely known. Many women just don’t know the career opportunities a job in construction offers. Making a concerted effort to recruit women and ensure your company has a culture that supports their career can go a long way to getting a more robust and diverse pool of talent.

 

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