The infrastructure bill introduced under the Biden 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.
While women make up 46.8 percent of the total U.S. workforce, they make up only 14 percent of the construction labor force (Washington D.C. touts the most women in construction of all states, at 17.6 percent). Although this is a 34 percent increase, there are still great challenges that come with being a female and wanting to work in construction.
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 recruit and retain women in construction and trades.
How to 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. The number of Hispanic women in the construction industry has grown over 117 percent over the past six years, which is another reason to have a powerful diversity statement, so not only women, but minority women are also welcomed to apply.
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, encouragement, 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. Being able to hear from women already employed by your company, will make female applicants feel more comfortable asking important questions.
4. Network and Promote
It can be challenging to create a diverse workplace in construction, but it can be done. And it goes beyond just claiming to have a diverse workplace. It needs to be a companywide culture that encourages and promotes diversity and equality.
Develop a workplace culture that promotes and encourages female workers, both in the office and in the field, and educate your male employees on the importance of diversity and equality.
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 they have seen themselves.
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 toward 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 the U.S. Government Accountability Office, women - on average - earned approximately $.82 for every dollar men earned, with the pay gap being greater for black women ($.63) and the worst for Hispanic or Latina women, at $.58 per every dollar a man earned.
However, the gender pay gap in construction is considerably less, with women earning an average of 95.5 percent of what their male counterparts earn. For example, The average salary of female construction managers is $94,835, with the overall average salary for male construction managers being $98,890.
Be sure you’re paying equal pay for equal work. Obviously, there are always going to be things more challenging for women than men, and vice versa, but if everyone is performing their best work, they should be able to receive equal pay and benefits.
7. Provide (and Enforce) a Robust Sexual Harassment Policy
Research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found many female construction workers feel respected at their jobs, however there are far more instances of inequality, particularly for non-white women. According to their survey, 26.5 percent of tradeswomen respondents experienced harassment just for being a woman “always or frequently,” and 23.5 percent “always or frequently experience sexual harassment.
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.
Of all construction companies worldwide, 13 percent are women-owned organizations. 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 and learn how to recruit and retain women in construction.