We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
The construction industry is continually looking for new employees. Companies across the country are struggling to find skilled workers to fill their ranks to combat a construction labor shortage. Changing perceptions and a growing need for labor make it easier than ever to learn how to get into construction as a woman.
Unfortunately, construction is still very much a boy’s club. In 2018, women only represented 1.5% of the construction workforce. That number rose to 9.9% in 2019, but the industry still has a long way to go. If you’re a woman interested in a career in construction, what can you do to get your foot in the door?
- Seek apprenticeships
- Go to trade school
- Grow into your role
- Look for services to help
- Find a mentor
- Understand the nuances
- Branch out
Why Does the Industry Need Women?
There are endless reasons for women to join the construction field. Between workforce shortages, leadership opportunities, high wages, new innovations, and building skills, women have multiple opportunities and advantages to consider when they take a position.
It’s important for women to know how they can benefit the industry — and why they’ll be more successful themselves. Here’s a look at why construction needs women.
1. Workforce Shortages
Today’s youngest Baby Boomers are in their late 50s, which means they’ll likely retire in the next 10 years. Countless older individuals in that generation have already left the workforce.
This phenomenon has created a knowledge gap, where high-level jobs open up without anyone to fill them. It’s an understatement to say that construction has endured repercussions from mass retirements.
These work shortages are caused by disinterest, as well. If you look at Millennials and Gen Zers in the workforce, you’ll notice they haven’t really pursued trade careers. That’s because four-year degrees are the norm, which leaves positions in construction and similar fields open without any takers.
Fortunately, women can solve the workforce shortage problem. This demographic isn’t totally absent in the construction industry — but 90% of construction workers are men, so women have room to step in as older individuals leave the workforce.
It’s crucial to boost recruiting techniques for young women so we can supplement workers leaving the field.
2. Leadership Opportunities
Due to how many positions are available, women have opportunities to take leadership positions. There are few female leaders in the construction industry, so additional women in the sector will mean they can take jobs as managers, superintendents, and more. That’s ideal for career growth and development.
Basically, construction isn’t a dead end. It offers long-term opportunities for every worker no matter their gender, especially for women, who only hold 29% of senior management positions in the global workforce.
Anyone who wants to climb the proverbial ladder has a chance to succeed, which isn’t always seen in some fields.
3. High Wages
It’s evident that men tend to earn higher incomes than women over their lifetimes. This wage gap extends across numerous industries, including traditionally female-dominated professions such as administration.
That’s cause for concern for various reasons, especially when you consider that women are often required to put money toward higher education just to keep up with their male counterparts.
Fortunately, construction offers a way for women to make enough money to support themselves without any concerns. In 2018, median construction wages amounted to $10,000 more than the national median wages.
Because trades don’t require such extensive education, women can even save money when choosing a career in construction.
4. New Innovations
There’s no denying that men and women think uniquely. It’s actually proven that men and women have varying cognitive abilities, so they bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table. That’s essential for success in the workforce, as you don’t want to be narrow-minded or restricted in how you operate. It’s all about diversity in innovation and thought.
If we can encourage more women to join the construction industry, we’ll improve numerous processes. These individuals naturally excel in communication, which makes a big difference in how well a construction project plays out. It’s also true that women have better fine-motor skills and long-term memory.
That’s not to say that men don’t have unique strengths, too. If you introduce more women into a male-dominated field like construction, you can create well-rounded teams that compensate for each other’s weaknesses. These pairings make for more progress and achievement.
5. Building Skills
Remember that construction isn’t always a lifelong career for everyone. However, you can still benefit from your time in the field, even when you decide to pursue a different opportunity down the line. Everyone who works in construction comes away with valuable lessons they can apply to their lives and careers.
Here’s a quick look at just some of the abilities women can develop through construction jobs:
- Time management
Because construction requires both mental and physical strengths, you’ll have endless opportunities to build a portfolio of skills applicable to situations in and out of construction. This field provides endless ways to grow in your career, whether you decide to stick with your role forever or not. These are practical abilities that college educations don’t always teach.
Overall, you can see that construction as an industry would benefit considerably from having more women working in the field. At the same time, women have the chance to earn more money than they would in several other roles, all while they build valuable skills and pursue leadership positions. It’s a win-win for all parties involved.
Potential Job Opportunities to Consider
Throughout the construction industry, women have access to various job opportunities. There are common positions like electricians, roofers and carpenters, but you can also find lesser-known roles. It’s essential for women to know they likely already have some necessary abilities to succeed in construction.
If you aren’t interested in a labor-intensive job, you can look into project management or building inspection, which don’t require as much building work. There are also more specific roles under broad categories.
If you’re interested in carpentry, you can become specialized in framing, for example. There are also up-and-coming opportunities, like solar panel installers, as clean energy becomes more prevalent.
More possibilities exist on the job site. If you want to be in on the action in a management capacity, you could pursue roles like contract supervisor, safety director, and purchasing coordinator. Otherwise, you might want to become a boilermaker, glazier, steamfitter, or mason. Each project requires work from various angles.
Keep in mind that construction work isn’t just putting up drywall. It can seem like a pretty straightforward field when you look at industry stereotypes, but women have endless chances to apply their strengths. Be sure to look into less widely known career opportunities before you discount construction as a possibility.
Apprenticeships are valuable tools for anyone looking to get into the construction industry, regardless of gender. For women, though, completing an apprenticeship and earning your mastery can be a feather in your cap that will make it easier for you to find work in construction. In many areas, you may be able to find pre-apprenticeship programs that will teach you all the basics and help you figure out which trade might suit you best.
In an ideal world, women wouldn’t need this extra edge to secure an apprenticeship, but as we mentioned, the construction industry is very much a boy’s club. If you’re trying to become an apprentice, you have to convince an existing — and usually male — trade master that you’re worth their time. Having even a little bit of extra experience can give you the edge you’ll need.
Go to Trade School
Another option that can help you make your way into the construction industry is to complete a trade school program in the specialty of your choice. They’re often available around the country and are willing to open their doors to anyone who can pay their tuition fees. These schools don’t care whether you’re male or female, and may even want to bring you into the class as a token female so they can check off their diversity boxes.
You will likely have narrow-minded classmates and instructors to contend with, but ignore them and learn as much as possible. Be the very best you can be, and don’t let them drag you down. It may take some time, but you may earn their respect, which can turn your trade school experience into a valuable networking tool.
Do Your Research
For women in progressive organizations and cities, getting into construction is relatively straightforward — and often encouraged. However, not every community or company readily welcomes women. Therefore, it’s important to do your research and look for companies that have women in leadership positions and actively seek to hire women.
Working in a healthy environment will make your life and your career much more enjoyable. More importantly, it can improve your chances of growing into better-paying positions. If you’re interviewing with a company and discover they don’t have many women in management, thank them and move on. Your time and talent are too precious to waste.
Grow Into Your Role
Of course, you may not have the luxury of being choosy. If you’re in desperate need of a paycheck to pay back student loans or simply cover your rent, you may have to work for a company that doesn’t readily welcome you. In this case, you’ll have to grow into your role as a construction worker.
Men often view women as caregivers, peacemakers and helpers. Leaving these roles behind and taking the lead is something a lot of us have to learn or practice more often. Don’t be afraid to stand up to your coworkers or speak up and offer solutions. Everyone around you will quickly realize you’re an innovative leader and someone they wouldn’t mind working under.
Look for Services to Help
The old boys of the construction industry might be hesitant to welcome women into their ranks, but there are plenty of services that can help open doors for you. They may offer networking and connections, apprenticeship programs or even financial aid if you choose the trade school route.
Many of these services also offer workshops so you can gather some of the skills you might need to make it in the industry on your own. Women are better off in construction than in many other fields. In most cases, they make 81 cents for every dollar a man makes. In construction, that rises to 94 cents. If you make your way into a union job, you’ll be making the same amount your male counterparts bring home.
Find a Mentor
While there aren’t as many women in the construction industry as there should be, the ones who have climbed the career ladder have plenty of wisdom to share — and many of them are happy to do so.
Look for someone willing to take you on as a mentor. It’s not an official position like you’d have as an apprentice, but if you aren’t having any luck securing an apprenticeship or finding a master to work with, mentorship can teach you the skills you need to succeed.
Finding a female mentor isn’t always an easy process. You can expect lots of emails and phone calls, and just as many rejections. Don’t get discouraged. Eventually, you’re bound to find someone who’s willing to teach you everything they’ve learned on their journey.
Understand the Nuances
All the greatest business moguls know networking is the key to success. The same is true of those working in construction. Your prosperity depends on your connections with those around you, especially superiors. Understand the line between being too girly and too brash, and try not to lean too far in one direction.
Of course, you want to remain true to yourself and your authentic personality. However, you’ll soon discover that mimicking the guys isn’t the best way to win your way into their good graces. Own who you are, crack a few jokes and understand how to do it in a group setting. If you can do that, everyone will come to respect you.
Most people picture construction workers as guys on scaffolding and large steel buildings. However, not all construction projects are the same. In fact, there are many different sectors within the industry. For example, if you’re interested in woodworking or tiling, making one your career would make you a construction worker.
Unless building offices and skyscrapers is your one and only dream, don’t be afraid to branch out. There may be more opportunities for women in different occupations, so it helps to diversify your interests and keep your options open. Look for a job as a carpenter, electrician, equipment manager, bricklayer or mechanic. Then, keep your eyes peeled for other opportunities even after you’ve been hired.
Women Making Their Way in Construction
If you’re a woman interested in finding work in the construction industry, the most important thing to remember is never give up. It is still a very male-dominated field. You’ll face people doubting your abilities and credibility throughout your career. But if you’re patient and persistent, it can be an incredibly lucrative and rewarding field.
Take the initiative and get your foot in the door today. Go to a local construction company, hand over your resume, introduce yourself and shake some hands. You’d be surprised how powerful an in-person visit can be.