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By: Conley Smith on March 8th, 2021

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Why Women in Construction Are Celebrating

Construction Industry News | Operating Insights | COVID-19

Long viewed as a male-dominated field, the construction industry has slowly been adding more and more women to their offices and jobsites as they fill roles as varied as construction technologists to painters.   

As a result, this year’s Women in Construction Week (March 7-13th) offers lots of great things for the whole industry to celebrate—from more opportunities for women to a smaller gender pay gap. 

While women make up only 10.3% of the construction workforce, the 1.1 million women employed in construction continue to gain ground every year, according to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). 

As jobs and construction activity begin to slowly return to normal this year and into 2022, JLL is also forecasting the industry will add more than 2 million new jobs. This means more construction-related companies are expected to recruit more women than ever to the construction field. 

Let’s look at a few more reasons women are celebrating this week. 

Security in a She-Cession 

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to five million women losing or leaving their jobs with some dubbing this downturn the “She-Cession.” In January alone, some 275,000 women vs. 71,000 men left the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

Admittedly, the pandemic has put many women in a tough spot. They’ve had to choose between caring for children at home and staying in the workforce—as daycares shut down and schools went virtual. For some, they are having to rethink their career choices entirely. 

For example, women working in the food and bar industry and retail have been particularly hard hit. In retail, where about half of the workers are women, 383,000 jobs have been lost since February 2020, according to McKinsey & Company,  

There is probably no better time for women to consider a career in construction. Workforce shortages are a constant concern and new talent will be needed to rebuild the economy and the crumbling U.S. infrastructure. 

For example, the Associated Builders and Contractors Illinois (ABCIL) notes that in Illinois alone there is a need for more than 200,000 skilled craft professionals. Worth noting – the annual salary for a craft laborer there is $60,500 and $66,720 for a carpenter. 

Higher Paying Jobs 

Average hourly earnings in construction first began to exceed $30 an hour in 2019. Typically, wages and salaries in construction are 10% higher than private-sector wages, according to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). Wages in construction have a history of outpacing and rising faster than other sectors. 

In fact, a recent Smart Asset study using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the construction jobs popular with women have salaries ranging from $68,000 for laborers and painters to $156,000 for construction managers. 

In 2015, only one in 15 workers held three of the top 10 fastest-growing jobs for women in construction. These occupations include construction managers, construction and maintenance painters, and construction laborers. All three roles saw increases of more than 50% in female workers from 2015 to 2019, even though they remain male-dominated.  

Of those more than 1.1 million women in construction, here is a breakdown of the different career paths and roles women, according to the NAWIC: 

  • 28% - Sales and office roles 
  • 44% - Professional and management 
  • 1% - Natural resources, construction, and maintenance 
  • 21.1% - Service occupations 
  • 5.9% - Production, transportation, and material moving 

More Opportunities for Advancement   

When it comes to the front lines of the construction industry, only 1 in every 100 employees in the field are women. However, the Smart Asset study found that the number of women with the title construction manager increased by 101% between 2015 and 2019—growing to nearly 100,000. This makes it the third fastest-growing job for women overall. 

There has also been a 64% increase in the number of women working as construction and maintenance painters, as well as a 50% increase in construction laborers.  

Although men hold most leadership roles in the construction industry, there’s evidence that having women in leadership roles can have a beneficial impact on any company. Though women own only around 13% of construction firms, 9% of those firms achieve revenues of over $500,000 or more. Such statistics prove the point that women in leadership roles can have a significant impact on the profitability of any construction business. In fact, 4% of all new construction firms were female owned in 2018.  

Smaller Gender Pay Gap

Interestingly, the construction industry supports gender equality more than most other industries. For example, women in the construction industry earn about 95 cents for every dollar a man earns when compared to the average 80 cents for every dollar a woman earns in other industries.  Specifically, women in the construction industry make an average of 95.7% of what a man would make doing the same job.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s an 18% pay bump compared to other industries. For example, average weekly earnings in 2017 for women in construction were $873 compared to $841 for men. 

Female construction managers earn $1,423 weekly compared to the $1,439 their male counterparts earned.  

Technology Levels the Field  

For many women, construction technology has brought with it greater opportunities for advancement. With emerging technology, women have stepped up to take positions where gender was not an issue.

A recent survey of 1,000 women in construction conducted by Levelset revealed that 81% say that having access to technology has enabled them to do their job, and 84% say their company supports professional training opportunities.

Today, new roles related to innovation and virtual design like chief technology officer, chief innovation officer, and construction technologist, are shattering gender stereotypes. With more and more niche technology-focused roles in the construction industry, more opportunities will become available for women. 

Through all the obstacles women encounter breaking into the construction industry and the image of construction as a male-dominated field, women are finding the benefits like higher pay and opportunity for advancement outweigh any perceived negatives.  

With construction jobs viewed as “essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic, more women are coming around to the stability and growth construction offers, said Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives at the Associated General Contractors of America.  

We clearly have much more work to do as an industry to recruit, hire and retain a more diverse population of workers, particularly womenThe good news is we are heading in the right direction,” he said. 

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