The crescendo around gender equality across industries has been growing. The construction industry is no different. Always perceived as an industry that is male dominated, our conditioning has indeed rendered it difficult to imagine women occupying more space in construction.
The perception that construction is a male-dominated industry is largely true. Women make up just around 10.9% of the construction sector’s workforce. However, today this industry is not only opening to women but also indeed, in need of them.
For women, this presents an opportunity to become part of a fast-growing and critical industry that needs trained professionals. The industry is making substantial progress in adopting cutting-edge technologies and is moving away from being traditional, and old fashioned manual-labor driven. Modern construction companies now use cutting-edge tech such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Building Information Modelling (BIM), AI, Automation, IoT, 3D imaging, robotics, and even nanotech!
That apart, new building materials are constantly developing, and ensuring construction meets low carbon, waste reduction, and environmental targets is becoming critical for this industry. The industry is also rapidly digitizing and smarter ways of breaking up tasks across the back and front end are emerging to grow efficiencies, reduce waste, and drive impact.
Since women make up approximately 47% of the workforce, and with only 11% working in construction shows that this industry is only benefitting from about 1% of the women in the workforce. Some of the factors contributing to this gender gap could be unconscious gender bias, negative perceptions of women working in construction, and the lack of adequate training.
Despite these barriers, this industry is now becoming a popular career choice for women. One study revealed that women are now occupying many new roles in the construction industry with 76% of those surveyed stating that the construction industry is changing for the better.
Some of the key reasons why we will continue to see more women join this industry are:
The construction industry is set for a job boom
The construction industry currently is in a near crisis. The industry needs almost 2.2 million more workers to keep up with booming demand over the next three years. The lack of skilled labor is touted as the most limiting factor for increasing home construction, improving housing inventory, and increasing affordability.
Almost 41% of the seasoned workforce in construction is expected to retire and leave the workforce by 2031. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) further reports that only 1.7% of construction workers were between 16-to and 19-years and less than 10% were under 25-years-old. With an aging workforce on its way to the retirement couch and very few skilled resources at hand, organizations need to widen the scope of their talent search.
Organizations have realized that they must lower the barriers of entry and create a conducive work environment to take advantage of a skilled female workforce. This tips the balance in favor of women.
Accelerating pace of technology adoption
The accelerating pace of technology adoption in the construction sector is another reason why I expect to see more women in the construction workforce. Construction technology is maturing rapidly, and its adoption is becoming critical to completing projects on time while maintaining cost efficiencies and regulatory compliance.
With increasing digitization and digital transformation of construction come greater opportunities for women. Automation, digitization, robotics, AI, etc. are changing the face of the industry and opening up greater opportunities for women. The increasing complexity and uniqueness of projects are also demanding new design ideas and strategies. It is compelling construction players to build an army of skilled, talented, creative individuals to fulfill roles from engineering, architecture, and planning, to finance and risk, and IT.
And with this, women get a larger playing field to make their mark and achieve their potential in a booming industry like construction.
Diversity is the need of the hour
All industries are recognizing the need to improve diversity across their workforce. The business case for diversity is very strong. Diverse teams are more impactful, innovative, and better at problem-solving than non-diverse ones. The logic is pretty simple – the more perspective you get, the better decisions you make and the easier it is to solve problems.
Diversity leads teams to take a broader approach to problem-solving, ideating, and innovating. Women and men bringing in their unique perspectives to the table and provide organizations the benefit of having fresh approaches and new strategies.
A shrinking pay gap
The gender pay gap in construction has also contributed heavily to the gender imbalance in this industry. It is good to see that the inequality in pay between men and women in construction is the lowest across industries now. Reports show that “Women in construction earn an average of 95.7 percent of what men make—an 18 percent bump over the typical 81.1 percent wage gap found in other industries.”
There is, of course, tremendous scope for improvement. However, the construction industry is doing much better in closing the pay gap as compared to sectors such as hospitality, real estate, and transportation.
Leveling the playing field
Construction has been projected as a male-dominated industry for the longest time. Reports now show that women are leveling the playing field and addressing the barriers of entry. There are organizations and support systems in place, including the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) to help women secure their place in the construction industry. That apart, women are also at the forefront of guiding and mentoring women to create their place in an industry that has so far been favorable towards one gender. A drive for equal pay and policies that drive equity and battle sexism and harassment in the workplace all contribute towards creating a conducive environment for women in construction.
As the support for women increases, the idea of a woman in that yellow hard hat is sure to become too common to comment on.