The growing skills gap and painful labor shortage in construction has many possible causes, from insufficient funding for vocational education for young people to the impact of the Great Recession on the existing, experienced labor force. Many builders simply left the industry when it became too difficult to make a living. Studies put the number of construction companies facing hiring difficulties today as high as 80%. But there has long been another shortage in the construction industry—the shortage of women workers.
The last 25 years of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the number of women in construction between 8% and 10% of the total workforce. This means that in a workforce of about 11 million, the industry currently has only recruited about 1 million women. Despite the fact that the number of women is on the rise in many other industries, there are far less women in construction today than in service industries, finance, wholesale and retail, public administration, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and utilities, and mining, according to the Center for Construction Research and Training. And most of the women who are employed by construction firms work in administrative and managerial roles. They’re not typically hands-on. That area of the industry is even more male dominant, which is one of the particular reasons why there are not more women on construction crews.
According to a 2017 study by the National Association of Homebuilders, young people today just aren’t interested in the construction industry. In fact, 63% of those surveyed said that they’d be unlikely to even consider a career in construction, no matter how good the job offered to pay. Women were even more likely to make this statement than men. This anecdotal evidence may not represent actual trends, however. An article on UnEarthLabs.com suggests that the number of women in construction is poised to rise as much as 25% in the next year thanks to “… visibility at recruiting events, creating proper fitting safety equipment for women, promoting participation in networking groups, increasing school programs for construction trades, and having more women in management positions.”
One example is an effort by the Associated General Contractors of America to encourage more women and other minorities to enter construction related field through vocational training at the high-school level. The effort has its critics who say that trade education isn’t enough and that these populations should also be shown a path to higher education and should be encouraged not only to enter the trades but to start and run their own businesses. Helping women to enter the trades and then to excel as managers and ultimately become business owners may also create income parity, which, like other industries still shows women making less money than men in construction.
The good news is that this is only one of many efforts that support women in construction. Following is a list of groups, trade organizations, and association that you should be aware of if you are a woman interested in working in construction or are a business owner interested in supporting such an effort. If there is an association or program that you think we should be aware of, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your experience. We may share your thoughts on this site and add the program to our list.
NAWIC originally began as Women in Construction of Fort Worth, Texas. Sixteen women working in the construction industry founded it in 1953. Knowing that women represented only a small fraction of the construction industry, the founders organized NAWIC to create a support network. Women in Construction of Fort Worth was so successful that it gained its national charter in 1955 and became the National Association of Women in Construction. Today, NAWIC provides its members with opportunities for professional development, education, networking, leadership training, public service and more.
PWC is a national nonprofit organization founded in 1980 that seeks to support, advance, and connect women and promote diversity within the architecture, engineering, construction, and related industries.
Women Construction Owners & Executives USA is committed to making a positive difference for women in the construction industry so there will come a time when gender will cease to be a business issue.
The NAHB Professional Women in Building Council represents thousands of members throughout the United States and serves as the voice of women in the building industry.
WiOPS is committed to the advancement of women in construction operation positions and mentoring of future women leaders in our industry. Through mentorships, education, and networking, we are dedicated to establishing a platform to share our goals and explore solutions to the unique challenges women encounter. WiOPS promotes hard work, commitment and integrity to maintain a professional network of construction leaders today and tomorrow.
Established in 2004, WBC is the leading association representing women in the construction industry on several important fronts: legislative advocacy, new business and professional development with a special focus on leadership.
NABWIC is a Florida-based, not-for-profit organization, formed in 1991 to address the unique challenges of black women in the construction industry. Its mission is to champion and empower women in the construction and related industries to reach their full potential and to represent the voice of black women in construction in both government and industry arenas.
CAWIC’s mandate is to facilitate the long-term success of women in Canada’s construction-related fields such as general contracting, trades, building products, architecture, engineering, interior design, and professional services. To accomplish this, CAWIC is in process of developing and implementing a variety of programs and services for women in construction-related fields.