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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Women in the Construction Industry: An Emerging Opportunity

Women In Construction

By Bill Janhonen

My Background In Construction

I started working in construction at the age of 10. My first job was pasting wallpaper for my father, and I was too short to reach the top of the pasting table, so I had to stand on two paint pots.

Fast-forward to 2019. I’ve seen a lot of changes, both good and bad, in the construction industry over the last 55 years. One of the slowest to change is the addition of women to the construction landscape – but thankfully, that’s changing for the better.  

I have to tell one story: I was working on a project in Connecticut for an Energy Star high-rise commercial project and was reviewing the site with a young lady in a hard hat. Some of the male workers on the site gave the stereotypical catcalls to this individual. Thirty minutes later, some of those same embarrassed supervisors sat in the weekly construction review meeting with the new project supervisor – the same female with whom I was walking through the site.

Statistics Of Women In Construction

Women working in construction numbered 1.3 percent of the entire U.S. construction workforce in 2015, compared to 9.9 percent in 2018. By 2020, that number is expected to reach 25 percent. Women in the U.S. earn on average 81.1 percent of what men earn; however, the gender pay gap is much narrower in the construction industry. In construction, women earn on average 95.7 percent of what men make.

The demand for workers in the construction industry is currently higher than it has ever been. Because of this, management is looking everywhere it can to fill the gaps. One problem they are facing is the fact that not many women wish to enter the industry. This problem could take time to solve, as it involves changing the perceptions of construction as a career. Currently, 13 percent of construction firms are owned by women according to www.bigrentz.com. Jennifer Vide, superintendent of Turner Construction, is a young professional who became a project superintendent at only 26 years old. “If you can show them how great a woman can be, then they start thinking many women can be great,” she says.

Groups That Are Changing The Landscape

To enter the male-dominated field of construction, women can seek the increasing number of resources available to them that address their specific needs in the industry: nationally recognized groups like the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and Women in Operations provide mentorship, marketing and networking opportunities to help women who are new to the industry. Other notable groups include the Women Construction Owners & Executives USA and Women in Operations.

I can state from personal experience that an increasing number of women are entering the construction field today. Recently, we had the opportunity to have a trade school visit a Net Zero Home where I was the Energy Rater for the project. I was pleasantly surprised that when the students on the first school bus emerged – over half of the students were female. I was even more surprised to learn there were three more buses coming for different trades – plumbing, electrical and framing. And the female-to-male ratio remained at about 1:1 – showing that young people are learning that anyone can be successful at anything they choose. Employing many more women in construction would be great.

Breakdown of Women in Construction

In 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, women made up 9.9 percent of the construction industry in the United States. Approximately 939,000 women are employed in various occupation sectors of the construction industry, broken down as follows: 

Occupation Sector           Number of Women            Percentage
Sales & Office 423,000 45%
Professional & Management 293,000 31%
Natural Resources, Construction & Maintenance            196,000 21%
Service Occupations 14,000 1.5%
Production, Transportation & Material Moving 13,000 1.4%


Total Workers in Construction ………………………………. 10,328,000
Men in Construction ……………………………………………….9,389,000
Women in Construction …………………………………………… 939,000

Women are expected to make up 25% of the construction industry by 2020!

Source: www.bigrentz.com/blog/women-construction

Bill Janhonen is a building science instructor, HERS rater, Energy Star verifier and longtime writer of several articles on sustainable building. He holds a brokers license in three states (NY, CT and NC), and is an approved instructor for the National Association of Home Builders. He is also an advisor to Green Living AZ magazine. For questions, he can be reached at wjanhonen@wsjenterprises.com.


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