Despite a labor shortage, where tremendous career opportunities exist, women still only make up less than ten (9.9) percent of the construction workforce. In fact, women working in construction numbered 1.5% of the entire U.S. workforce in 2018.
Allison Frye, immediate past president of National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), says most women have never been exposed to it.
“One of the biggest challenges we have is recruiting younger women,” says Frye, a civil engineer with SME, “and having them understand there is a place here and a great opportunity for you to have a very successful career.”
But why is it so critical for women to be represented in this historically male-dominated industry? Frye believes the need for more women is great because research shows diversity of thought produces innovation and progress.
“Anywhere there hasn’t been equity, we need to dig in and understand what’s happening,” says Margaret Mitchell, president and CEO of YWCA of Greater Cleveland.
With bias one reason that can prevent women from entering or being successful in construction, Heather Steranka-Petit, a consultant to the YWCA of Greater Cleveland, conducts unconscious bias workshops, dealing with diversity issues ranging from race and ethnicity to age and gender.
She says women in her construction related sessions report feeling as though they were only asked to apply for a position to fill a quota. “They worry about that and want people to know they are qualified,” said Steranka-Petit.
Her advice to males in construction leadership positions is to make sure women are given the same opportunities around mentoring and training as their male counterparts. And, if a woman brings an issue of harassment to them, take it seriously and investigate.
She also says women need to check their own biases as well. “Women need to keep in mind that sometimes we’re our own worst enemy,” says Steranka-Petit.
Edited by Maryssa Gordon, Senior Editor, Price of Business Digital Network