The Diversity Difference: Building Connections that Attract Women to Construction
A recent workforce survey by the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and Safe Site Check In found that 71% of those surveyed see increasing opportunities for women in construction. Those findings align with an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by Smart Asset, New York that show the fastest-growing jobs for women are in construction.
In fact, according to women in construction statistics, workforce diversity on the jobsite is rising. While the history of women in construction has been limited, the study found that women in construction management positions increased by 101% from 2015-2020 and construction labor positions held by women posted a 50% rise in that same time frame.
The increasing role of women working in construction can be, at least in part, attributed to the commitment made by company and industry groups to raising awareness, creating opportunity and supporting women in construction.
A number of industry-leading companies, such as Mortenson, Clark Construction, Granite Construction and Gilbane Building Company, all address diversity and inclusion with focused intent. As well, program’s such as AGC of America’s Culture of Care campaign, which launched in the spring of 2020, builds on the AGC of Washington’s initiative from 2018. The goal is to raise the profile of working in construction for diverse and talented workers by building inclusive work environments in construction firms nationwide.
Further, social media sources such as Move Over Bob further elevate women in the industry by spotlighting trailblazing women in the construction industry.
Technology companies are also doing their part. Trimble introduced the Trimble Women's Network, a company-wide program dedicated to connecting, supporting and mentoring women in the workplace, raising awareness and opportunity, a number of years ago. With chapters throughout the world, the program provides resources and tools to help women empower themselves, address sexism at work, and ask for assistance through an informal network of men and women with a desire to share their expertise. Activities such as participation in National Women's Build Week to hang drywall, and paint home exteriors help women around the world learn about women in construction.
Lindsay Renkel, Manager, Product Marketing at Trimble MEP North America has seen the change firsthand:
“Over the last 10 years, the difference within Trimble has been visible. From project managers to marketing or forewomen and equipment operators on a job, I’ve seen the role of women elevated in construction.”
- Lindsay Renkel, Manager, Product Marketing at Trimble MEP
Independent studies agree. According to Comparably, a leading workplace culture and compensation monitoring site, Trimble is in the top 5% of companies in the United States with 10,000+ Employees for diversity.
Renkel believes there’s more that could be done. She notes:
“Construction was not presented as an option when I was growing up—now that I’m in it, I can’t believe the number of opportunities available. I believe there’s more that we can do around awareness.”
Sarah Miller, Manager, Product Operations at Trimble MEP, a position that requires considerable knowledge about estimating and CAD detailing products, agrees and is working to make a difference. She’s an active member of the Women in Construction Management Summer Institute at her alma mater, Colorado State University to introduce and excite high school students about the role of women in the construction industry.
It’s programs like the Trimble Women’s Network and the Institute that many hope will excite more women into the industry, particularly the largely underrepresented Black and Hispanic population. Studies show that the number of black women in construction, as well as science and engineering, must more than double, and Hispanic must triple the number from current numbers to achieve a balanced representation.
Continuing to raise awareness about opportunities in the industry, and the pay scales, will help. According to a study by Construction Coverage, a major benefit for women in the construction industry is that they tend to command higher wages than female workers in other fields. The median full-time wage for women in construction is $46,808 per year, compared to $43,394 for female workers across all industries. In addition, men and women in the construction industry report relatively equal pay. While the national gender pay gap across all industries is 19%, the gender pay gap in construction is only 3.7%.
Further, Miller points to the importance of role models:
“It was not always easy to get people to accept that I belong in the industry or that I know what I am talking about, but eventually the belonging will come. Just keep going and when someone's opinion makes you question yourself, go back to one of your advocates, figure out what you did not know—and never quit.”
- Sarah Miller, Manager, Product Operations at Trimble MEP