Historically, the construction industry is one that many women have been hesitant to enter. Fueled by misconceptions, such as the perception that construction is only for those interested in manual labor, a perceived lack of diversity and even stigmas around trade careers and salaries, in 2021, only 11 percent of those employed within the construction industry were women.
However, the construction industry is facing a monumental time. From the rising demand for skilled workers to the increased adoption of cutting-edge technology, the construction industry is ripe with opportunity. And, many women currently working in the field are looking to change these misconceptions and shed light on the incredible possibilities the field presents to other women.
For starters, the U.S. gender pay gap is significantly narrower in construction. According to the most recent data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, female construction workers in 2019 earned 94.3 percent of male workers’ weekly median pay, versus the 81.5 percent average gap across all occupations. Additionally, according to a 2020 study by SmartAsset, the number of women in construction management grew by 10 percent between 2015 and 2019. And, perhaps most importantly, a 2021 survey by Levelset found that 80 percent of women loved their jobs in construction.
If you’re a woman looking to enter or grow your career in the construction field, you are clearly moving in the right direction. Here are a few tips as you look to take the most advantage of this evolving field.
1. Secure a Registered Apprenticeship
If you are just beginning to consider a career in the construction industry, one of the best things you can do to set yourself up for success is to take part in a registered apprenticeship, internship or co-op program. Registered apprenticeships are a big part of getting involved in the trades, as they allow you to gain real-world experience working in the field. As a registered program, they have been carefully vetted by industry organizations, such as governmental agencies and union-based associations.
Registered apprenticeships typically offer both classroom and on-the-job training, and you’ll have a “safe space” to learn all the types of skills and inner workings of the industry you’ll need to move you forward in your career. You’ll also begin building a valuable network of others in the construction industry that can help guide you along the way.
2. Find a Mentor
As mentioned earlier, one of the beneficial aspects of taking part in a registered apprenticeship, internship or co-op program is building your support network of others in the construction field. In addition to building this network, be sure to make a connection with an individual (or a few) in the industry who can mentor you as you navigate throughout your career. Mentors can help orient you, especially early on in your career. They can help you set and work towards specific goals you have for yourself, and also guide you through challenges along the way.
In addition to finding a mentor through your internship, you can also find great mentors by joining an organization, such as the Signatory Wall and Ceiling Contractors Alliance and National Association of Women in Construction.
3. Consider All Aspects of the Industry
One of the many misconceptions about the construction industry is that it only entails manual labor. That myth couldn’t be farther from the truth, especially as technology in the construction industry becomes more and more advanced. From project management to finance to design to contract negotiations, there are plenty of options both on and off the job site that are crucial to making a job run smoothly.
As you embark on your career in the industry, consider trying out ALL aspects of the construction industry. This will allow you to try out different types of roles to help you understand what you enjoy and what you don’t before committing to a specific path.
While there’s a long way to go, women in construction are on the rise. In fact, since 2012, the amount of women in construction has risen by 54.7 percent, according to BLS. Consider the tips above to take advantage of all the exciting opportunities this industry has to offer.
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