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3 Reasons Women in Construction are Celebrating

Posted: March 3, 2020

Conley Smith, Sr. Business Writer

This year’s Women in Construction Week (March 1-7) offers lots of great things for the whole industry to celebrate—from wide-open roles for women to a smaller gender pay gap. For starters, the number of women employed in construction has been increasing since 1985. At the end of 2018, there were roughly 1.1 million women employed in various occupation sectors of the construction industry. According to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), women now make up 9.9 percent of the construction industry in the United States. Here are three more reasons women are celebrating:

  1. High-Paying Jobs

With average hourly earnings in construction exceeding $30 an hour in 2019, wages and salaries in construction are typically 10% higher than private-sector wages, according to the AGC. Wages are also rising at a faster rate than in other sectors. There is clearly high demand for construction workers of all types. Of those more than 1.1 million women in construction, here is a breakdown of the different career paths and roles women are finding in construction, 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

2.Opportunities for Advancement  Even though there is a critical labor shortage with the overall unemployment rate the lowest since 1969, women in construction typically hold fewer craft positions. For example, of the 8.3 million who were employed in the field production of the construction and extraction industries in 2018, only 3.4% were women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Building inspectors (14%), painters (7.2%) and helpers (5.6%) saw the highest participation by women in 2018, with their percentages in trades like carpet installation, carpenters, drywall hangers, and electricians landing somewhere between 1.9% and 3.7%.  However, experts say it is not only easier for women to get hired in the wake of the construction labor shortage, but there is also plenty of opportunities for advancement. 

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. 

3.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 man 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. 

The Future is Female

For women, construction ultimately offers a lot of opportunities that most other male-dominated fields seem unable to provide for women workers. Through all the obstacles women encounter breaking into the construction industry and the image of construction as a male-dominated field, it would seem women have the potential to make great strides. Hiring more women may just be the key to helping the construction industry resolve its current labor shortage.  With construction expected to create almost 2 million new jobs by 2021, many construction firms will feel the pressure to attract, hire, and retain more women. There are already promising signs that the future is bright for women in construction.   For example, in 2018, nearly one-third of companies in the field promoted women to senior positions. Of those, a substantial portion of the female executives had been in their roles for at least five years. 

If you’re struggling to hire more women—especially cost estimators—don’t miss our great updated guide—2019 How to Hire a Great Estimator— for hiring tips and tricks. 

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