The new infrastructure bill introduced by the current administration will add an average of 1.5 million jobs per year for the next 10 years. With the influx of new construction work bound to come, finding skilled workers is likely to be a bigger challenge than it already is.
Construction companies can keep up with this workload by including women in their construction candidate pool. But to do that, they’ll need to understand more about what these underrepresented workers need, and how to retain them.
Here are 11 tips to help you create a more diverse workplace in construction.
1. Adjust your job listings
Many women and young ladies are interested in getting into the trades, but the recruiting process is not always the most diverse. Ads that openly welcome female applicants are more likely to receive applications from them.
Be sure your job listing exhibits your company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and ensure it aligns with your diversity statement on your website.
To write an impactful diversity statement, use these tips:
- Avoid gender references and pronouns. Use they/them/we/us rather than he/she statements.
- Use positive words.
- Keep sentences short and concise.
- Try to keep it to less than 100 words.
Example diversity statement
We celebrate the uniqueness of everyone. It takes all kinds of people to create winning teams. We strive to expand and change the way things are done with equality and inclusion.
2. Consider training
Some women may be up to the task when it comes to construction but just haven’t received the right training, mentoring, or coaching. If your company offers women the opportunity to get their feet in the door and learn from veterans, they will feel more comfortable applying.
3. Add women to the recruiting process
Many women in construction today are working in administrative roles and, as such, are familiar with your company projects, policies, and procedures.
Including both women and men in the recruitment process creates a sense of belonging and welcome for female applicants.
4. Network and promote
Diverse workplaces go beyond just working on the jobsite. Incorporate a workplace culture that promotes and encourages female workers, both in the office and in the field.
When everyone in your organization understands the importance of diversity - and that female candidates are encouraged to apply - you’ll be more likely to receive a more diverse pool of applicants.
For example, your office workers might encourage young women in their social networks to apply to work for your company because of the diversity.
Conversely, your male construction workers might be more inclined to urge female friends to join your company because your company culture fosters a diverse and inclusive environment.
5. Be proactive
Vocational training is not just for men, nor is the military. Find local vocational schools or veteran organizations that have women in their networks, and send some of your people out to share their experiences in construction.
Veterans are trained in skills that many long-time construction workers have yet to develop, such as punctuality and discipline. Those learning trades in vocational schools are ideal to steer towards construction, so they can advance their education with on-the-job training to get the jobs done the way your company wants them done.
6. Offer competitive pay and benefits
According to experts, construction has the second-largest gender pay gap in the United States. Women in construction earn an average of $36,361 less than their male counterparts.
To be truly diverse and equal, make sure your compensation is the same for female workers as it is for male workers doing the same jobs.
7. Provide (and enforce) a robust sexual harassment policy
Harassment and disrespect (specifically, sexism) are highly problematic for women in construction. In 2021, a survey from the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) of 2,600 tradeswomen revealed nearly half - 47% - reported either left or seriously considered leaving the trades.
But many choose to stay in the trades despite these issues for several reasons. A report shows the top reasons women seek work in the trades, which is information today’s contracting companies can leverage when retaining female talent.
Most women in construction are pretty thick-skinned because the trades are such a male-dominant field. But they shouldn’t have to be.
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. It also encompasses frequent and/or excessive teasing, taunting, or off-handed comments that create an uncomfortable or hostile workplace.
As an employer, it falls to you to ensure your employees understand the importance of inclusion to build and create camaraderie among all employees of all genders.
A robust sexual harassment policy should be familiar to all employees and strictly enforced by all managers. Be sure your female workers are not afraid to come forward with sexual harassment claims, and ensure your company takes these claims very seriously.
8. Offer female facilities and equipment
Often, typical tools PPE, and other necessities for physical construction work are not suited for females. Be sure your workers have access to tools, equipment, facilities, and other essentials to do their best work.
According to OSHA, women’s PPE “should be based upon female anthropometric (body measurement) data.” Safety equipment that doesn’t fit properly, isn’t safe.
9. Give them challenges
Give women the opportunity to prove themselves on the job, and they will likely embrace the challenge. Men and women learn things differently, and each have their strengths - both physical and mental.
If you have a female worker that excels at finishing work, try having her take on new tasks in prep work or let them work under a mentor learning a new task suited to them.
10. Have a fair maternity policy
While there is currently no federal law mandating a maternity leave policy, having one promotes healthy families and satisfied employees.
Satisfied employees are loyal.
When you have a family/maternity leave policy, it exhibits your organization’s willingness to embrace diversity and inclusion and encourages women to look to your company for their future career.
11. Create winning teams
Nobody knows your company as well as you do. You know who your strongest teams are and who your best team players are. While nobody is perfect, everyone has their particular strengths.
Be sure you’re pairing the right people together on the right jobs, with the right managers and/or foremen/women.
The number of women in construction is climbing, but only a little. To evolve and include more women, construction organizations have to change the stereotypes and make entering the construction and trade workforce more attainable for women.