2024’s Percentage of Women in Construction: The Rising Stats

Category: Construction | By | 5 minute read | Updated Apr 30, 2024

Women comprise nearly half of today's workforce, and the percentage of women involved in hands-on construction work is around 14% and growing. Many of these women work in administrative and office roles, but that trajectory is changing.

Vital skills and labor needs are not being met, and the traditionally male-dominated construction industry can no longer operate without tapping into the other half of workers, skills and talents: women. 

But this isn’t to say the percentage of women in construction is rising just due to this need; it’s changing as perceptions, culture and initiatives encourage women to pursue construction as a career. 

The Groundbreaking Shift: Women's Growing Presence in Construction

Construction sites are changing. From a minimal presence to one in ten workers being female, the percentage of women in construction wasn’t even a question in the past. Women could be part of the company, but they wouldn’t be in the crew.

This is changing, and recent shifts in skill shortages, cultural changes and career goals mean more women than ever are part of the industry.

Historical Context: Tracing the Rise Over the Decade

The pandemic is likely the first thing that enters anyone’s mind when analyzing recent trends in hiring, firing and the labor pool, but the percentage of women in construction has changed significantly before the pandemic. While COVID certainly didn’t help matters, the construction industry was already experiencing some of the issues other industries would soon face.

In 2016, unemployment in the construction industry hit its lowest point since 2000. Many long-time professionals began to reach retirement age, while the current levels of new professionals and younger workers were insufficient to fill in the gaps and take on those same roles. 

Construction companies and businesses needed to encourage more people to consider the industry as a career, and they needed to tap into 50% of the vastly underrepresented workforce, that is, women. This has led to educational and policy initiatives to foster a higher percentage of women in construction training programs and apprenticeships. 

Post-pandemic, many students have had to face that college isn’t the only path to success, and that trade industries are viable options for anyone willing to put in the effort. 

Region-Specific Insights: Where Are Women Leading the Charge?

When considering the percentage of women in construction, location and region play a large factor in the industry. Some states meet and exceed the average, while others lag behind. So, what are the differences, and what are some of the best percentages?

High-Percentage States

Alaska and Hawaii show the largest percentage of women in construction, 14.9% and 13.1%, respectively. While the higher pay rate could account for some of these numbers, the fact both states are physically isolated from the rest of the country could mean that companies have smaller groups of professionals to choose from. Companies in these states need all the skills and professionals available!

The Pacific Northwest also shows a larger percentage of women in construction than other states. The percentage of women in construction in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho is between 13% and 14%, which matches similarly with Colorado.

In the east, Florida stands out as the state with the highest percentage of women in construction: 14%.

Regional Trends: Comparing Urban vs. Rural Landscapes

Trends show a definite shift towards a higher percentage of women in construction in urban areas. This can partially be attributed to the higher percentage of students and diverse groups in urban areas, particularly dense metropolitan areas with colleges and trade courses. Higher demand and access to education and services means more professionals working there. 

Florida, our high achiever, has not one but three metropolitan areas with the highest percentage of women in construction: Jacksonville at 16.9%, Orlando at 15% and North Port at 14.3%.

Behind the Numbers: What's Driving the Change?

The last 20 years have demonstrated that careers are less and less likely to be steady and set for life. A few generations ago, one career or the family business would be enough to support a family comfortably; now, the markets shift, and new jobs pop up while some become irrelevant. Evergreen industries like construction are more appealing than ever to men and women.

It might seem like trends shift and change naturally as people move away from strictly traditional job roles, but the larger percentage of women in construction is also fueled by educational initiatives, vocational support and training and policy changes. 

Educational Initiatives Breaking New Ground

Local and state educational and training initiatives are rising nationwide, causing a higher percentage of women in construction education. No longer are the jobs just in admin: these programs are focused on getting women into the trade.

In 2015, Dr. Mittie Cannon formed Power Up, an organization that introduces young girls and their mothers to the construction trades. 

"I wanted to let other women know that there's this opportunity out there where you can make high wages, meet other people, do interesting work, and travel," Cannon says in an interview with Construction Dive.

So far, over 1,000 girls in preschool through 12th grade have been introduced to construction through Power Up’s programs. The organization now spans five states and Guam. 

Tradeswomen, Inc. is another organization whose goal is to “recruit more women into construction and related trades.”

This California-based organization hosts career fairs introducing girls to the construction trades in their junior and senior high school years. They also partner with construction businesses to provide trade apprenticeships for women

In Biloxi, Mississippi, The Moore Community House encourages women to enter the trades by offering a Women in Construction program. 

The program allows women, especially single mothers, to learn high-earning trade skills. In offering this program, the mission helps meet the industry demand for skilled workers while empowering single mothers to support their families. 

Since 2008, they’ve helped over 700 women find trade employment, boosting the percentage of women in construction with their hard work and support.

As construction business owners continue to partner with organizations like these, more women will realize they can find a place in non-traditional industry roles. As a result, more women will be attracted to skilled trades jobs, and construction firms will be better able to recruit and retain women in construction.

Policy Shifts Paving the Way for Women

Decision-makers at every level have noticed the percentage of women in construction and why we need to see that number rise.

In 2022, the US Department of Commerce announced its Million Women in Construction initiative, with the goal of bringing another million women into the industry over the next ten years. When even the federal government talks about it, you know it’s big!

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act also outlines the boosts and grants for construction businesses, establishing a Minority Business Development Agency to streamline the process for women-owned businesses in construction to access grants and benefits.

The Cultural Tide: Changing Perceptions of Women in Construction

“Women can do anything that men can do, but it’s not what they’re accustomed to,” says Casey Brouse, a woman welder who’s put on a face shield and proudly melded metal for 20 years. 

“[Women] don’t realize that the option is there,” says Brouse.

And she’s absolutely right.

If you walk through a girls’ toy aisle, you’ll unlikely see a plastic toolbox there. Not many parents are introducing the love of building to their young daughters. And, until recently, if you saw a picture of a person in a hard hat, that person was a man. Even now, if you do an image search for “construction worker,” very few photos of female construction workers will pop up. 

Girls aren’t being introduced to construction when they’re young. As they grow into young women, they don’t see themselves represented in construction roles. So it makes sense that they aren’t going to be drawn to the trades—the trades aren’t even on their radar.

But things are changing.

A great recent example is the Barbie movie, and that too had theatres filled with men and women of all ages. It was a simple scene, but Barbie, shocked at our construction sites being filled solely with men, flipped the script with a simple scene. It really should be shocking that the percentage of women on the construction site was a big zero!

It might seem like an isolated scene in a popular movie, but it’s important. Media culture isn’t about what we are but what we can be. 

And the higher the percentage of women in construction, the more girls can see themselves represented in the industry. A woman doing her work on a job site can become an inspiration.

Navigating Challenges: Still a Long Road Ahead

A higher percentage of women in construction benefits everyone, but it’s not an easy task to achieve. But just because more women will be attracted to non-traditional employment doesn’t mean they’ll want to leave other industries behind. So, what can companies do to foster a positive and inclusive construction industry?

Change will be incremental, but the right considerations will see a positive feedback loop and boost the percentage of women in construction. 50% might seem a long way away, but it’s possible.

What Companies Can Do to Foster a More Inclusive Environment

How can companies help raise the percentage of women in construction and encourage new talent? As the numbers rise and more women decide to join the industry, businesses will benefit from the influx of skills, fresh ideas and perspectives that women bring to the team. 

Construction hiring and crew retention can be challenging in the industry, so how can your company support women in construction?

Maternity and Parental Support

The industry's pull is in no small part the stability and career opportunities trade professionals can enjoy. As discussed earlier, the percentage of women in construction is rising in part due to long-term job security so they can start planning for the rest of their future. 

Women don’t want to feel forced to choose between having children or having a career. They want both! Other industries have recognized that and made significant efforts to support them, and it is a factor in the kinds of employers women in construction will assess when looking for work.

Construction companies that want a higher percentage of women to help beat the labor shortage should take steps to support them. When they do, they won’t just solve the problem of finding skilled workers. They’ll also get to keep those workers longer.

On average, women stay with companies that support them through their pregnancies for six years per child. And considering that most workers only stick around for two years, that’s a big deal. The percentage of women in construction companies can become a reliable resource of loyal, long-term team members.

And hey, the kids of those workers? Maybe Mom will be their inspiration to join the industry!

Safe and Supportive Work Environment

It’s no secret that women who work in male-dominated industries often face discrimination and harassment, and the construction trades are no different. It’s an unfortunate truth across all industries, but it is pronounced in industries with a traditionally low percentage of women.

In fact, 88% of female construction workers report having been harassed on the job. The harassment women experience on construction sites can range from mild insults to full-on sexual assault.

Luckily, sexual harassment prevention training is on the rise. New anti-harassment legislation is being put in place. And, though there’s still plenty of room for improvement, sexist attitudes are slowly starting to fade. 

Brouse, the welding pro, says she’s seen a positive change within the past several years of her career.

“It was a lot different ten years ago than it is now,” says Brouse. “People in general have changed with all this bullying and harassment. There are programs in place. It’s changed a lot for the better.”

And as attitudes toward women in construction keep improving, more women can confidently enter the trades. Want more tips? Check out our article on retaining female workers in your construction company.

What the Next Five Years Could Look Like 

The next five years could see huge shifts in the percentage of women in construction. The benefits to companies and crews are impossible to ignore. 

Let's explore what women can bring to the table.

Wider Skills and Talents

Missing out on 50% of a potential workforce can stymie any business. Degrees, diplomas and certifications are becoming ever more thorough, and the new generations have a comfort and ability with technology that boosts their productivity to new heights.

Women bring not only their trade skills but a wide variety of experience and talents. 

Fresh Industry Perspectives

Men and women think differently. Jokes are made about it every day. But it’s also a scientific fact that men’s and women’s brains work differently. And each has ways of thinking that bring strengths with it.

But, since the percentage of women in construction is currently still low, the industry is missing out on the cognitive strengths women bring. This will improve as the industry welcomes more female workers.

Stronger Teams

Research has found that diverse teams - those of both genders - are better at team collaboration, and it’s suggested that having female team members is part of improving team performance. Bump up the percentage of women in construction teams, and there’s a very good chance they’ll be more cohesive and productive.

Women, on the whole, are more inclusive. They think about others around them. And, because they’re naturally empathetic, emotionally intuitive, and compassionate, they build stronger relationships. 

Embracing Change in the Construction Industry

The construction trades aren’t known for their ability to adapt to new ideas quickly. The construction world has been a “man’s land” for a long time, but as we can see, this has been changing and still has plenty of room to grow. 

More people in the industry are starting to see that women can perform just as well in the job, and companies have seen the benefits of a larger percentage of women in construction.

As more industry leaders and construction companies awaken to this fact, they can start to tackle some of the longstanding issues that deter women from wanting to enter the trades. And hopefully, we can see the percentage of women in construction continue to grow.

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