As of 2018, there were over a million women working within the construction industry. While the majority remain employed within the professional and management sector, over 20 percent of women working within the field occupy service positions.
While a significant gender gap remains when it comes to certain specialties, there is one area where the divide almost disappears, and it revolves around pay.
How to Become a Female Construction Worker in a Male Dominated Industry
That aspect of the industry might have proved appealing enough to encourage more people to enter the field, particularly women.
That kind of growth far exceeds the average applied to occupations overall.
Read on for more information on how to break into the construction industry. In this article, we discuss what kind of training people need to work in the field, job outlook, salary expectations and more.
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Types of Industry Work
When it comes to a career in the field, women have a few different choices in terms of what they would like to specialize in. As stated, the majority of women remain stationed in office positions.
Just a small percentage of women in the industry are considered tradespeople. This sector is largely divided into two sectors: residential and nonresidential. Nonresidential work contains three sub sectors: heavy industrial, institutional and commercial and engineering.
Though these specialties carry their own distinct set of responsibilities and required skills, there is some common ground. Each sector presents the opportunity for women to participate in eco-friendly projects and green building methods, hydro-electric projects, building state-of-the-art entertainment complexes, super bridges and more.
That said, opportunities for women in leadership positions are increasing. As of 2018, 7.5 percent of all construction managers are women. 44 percent of the top 100 contracting companies have women in executive roles.
Training and Certifications
Things can get a little confusing when it comes to schooling for construction. Different positions demand people attain different levels of education. The higher you want to climb in the field, the more educational opportunities you’re encouraged to pursue.
While lower level positions don’t require any specific education, they do demand a certain level of experience, and that experience is more easily attained with some schooling under your belt.
Young women considering a career in construction should consider enrolling in a trade school. These institutions can introduce students to important basics, from familiarizing them with building materials to installation techniques and more. Students will likely be introduced to different power and hand tools and learn how to read blueprints.
After completing a trade school program, aspiring female construction workers have a few different options to entertain. They could go directly into the field, or they could pursue a paid apprenticeship.
Though the latter may take upwards of 5 years to complete, an apprentice will emerge with a much more developed skill set, opportunities to demand higher pay and a journeyman title.
Of course, before pursuing either of these options, it is recommended all aspiring female members of the field complete the outreach training program provided by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The “Construction Safety 101” survey class teaches students how to work safely on work sites. Two versions of the certification exist. One involves ten hours of training and the other and 30 hours. The former is designed for entry-level construction workers, while the latter is recommended to those with supervisory responsibilities
Additional certifications are also available for individuals who wish to pursue specialty areas. Organizations offering this kind of instruction include:
The Construction Manager Certification Institute (CMCI)
The CMCI offers the Certified Construction Manager (CCM) credential. Certification holders are recognized as experts in all phases of a construction project, from planning and design through construction and completion.
American Institute of Constructors (AIC)
The AIC offers a Constructor Certification Program, which administers the Associate Constructor (AC) and Certified Professional Constructor (CPC) certifications. The program typically seeks candidates who have completed an accredited four-year construction management degree program or have four years of qualifying experience, though they also accept a combination of education and experience.
Green Business Certification Inc.(GBC1)
The GBCI’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) professional certification program kicks off with the Green Associate credential. Certificate holders have successfully demonstrated a thorough understanding of current green building principles and practices.
National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET)
With more than 148,000 certified engineering technicians and technologists, it’s safe to say that the NICET remains a trusted institution within the industry. It offers a series of technician certification programs that cover civil engineering, electrical and mechanical systems engineering and more. Technologist certifications are also available.
American Concrete Institute (ACI)
ACI certifications ensure technicians and inspectors remain up-to-date on the various aspects of concrete manufacturing, including anchoring, proportioning, testing, finishing methods and more.
National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)
The NCCER offers both the National Craft Assessment and Certification Program (NCACP) and the Pipeline Training and Assessment Program. Within these programs, there are more than 70 craft areas to choose from, including boilermaking, carpentry, construction technology, mobile crane operation and plumbing.
National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE)
Certification programs here include Cathodic Protection (CP), Coating Inspector (CIP), General Coatings, General Corrosion, Pipeline, and a specialty program that covers certifications for carbon steel, chemical treatments and protective coatings.
Advanced Educational Options for Women in Construction
Even with these options available, women who see themselves holding more senior positions will still want to pursue some form of higher education. A lot of institutions offer associate degrees in building construction technology.
The goal of these programs is to introduce students to core liberal arts courses as well as advanced math, science and technology concepts to be applied to building systems and team management.
Individuals with managerial aspirations can even take their education one step further with a bachelor’s degree in construction management. These programs will expand on the concepts introduced during the associates program and introduce more advanced business management material.
Job Tasks and Responsibilities
Some day-to-day tasks female employees may be expected to complete include digging trenches, backfilling holes, pacting earth to prepare for site work, surveying equipment, operating jackhammers and more.
Women with special training might be required to transport and use explosives, run hydraulic boring machines to dig out tunnels, use lasers to place pipes or operate computers to control robotic pipe cutters. Certified individuals may be asked to remove lead, chemicals or asbestos.
Job Outlook and Compensation
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industry is slated to grow by 5% between 2019 and 2029. That rate far exceeds the number assigned to other occupations. As of 2019, the median pay for general workers remains $36,000 per year of $17.31 per hour. The average salary for site managers averages almost triple that rate, with $95,260 per year or $45.80 per hour.
Challenges Across the Construction Industry for Women
Though uniform hourly rates among men and women is a luxury enjoyed by those who work in construction, there are other challenges specific to the field. While gender diversity is improving across the industry, certain problems persist. According to accounts provided by women working in construction, it’s not uncommon for female construction workers to receive less working hours than their male counterparts.
There are other issues to combat as well. Professional gear for women is often ill-fitting, along with the equipment assigned to them. This will inevitably put an individual at a higher risk of injury on the job.
Construction work is also incredibly physical. Individuals are expected to work long hours performing physical labor, often in uncomfortable work environments. Loud machinery and construction debris can further compromise working conditions.
Layoffs and lengthy gaps between construction projects are also somewhat common occurrences for those working construction jobs.
Women in Construction: Resources and Professional Support
While being a female will still land you in a minority position across the construction industry, there are a number of organizations offering support to women in the field and helping them connect with employers. Some of the most recognizable are listed below.
Kick Off Your Career as a Female Construction Worker at the New England Institute of Technology
Become a construction worker by getting an associate degree in building construction technology at NEIT! Our program will introduce aspiring female construction workers to site work and framing procedures for floors, walls, rafters, dormers, and stair systems.
In addition to our core curriculum, students can choose between two concentrations: building construction and cabinetmaking or building construction and design. Both areas cover topics in the residential, commercial building, cabinetmaking, and design trades.
Specific to the cabinetmaking concentration is a focus on machinery and tools, wood as a material, and cabinetmaking joints and assembly. Meanwhile, the design concentration focuses on building construction and architectural engineering. Computer-assisted drafting (CAD), print reading, and manual and computer-aided estimating are part of both programs.
Graduates can either enter the workforce or continue their education with a bachelor’s degree in construction management. Our bachelors of science program prepares students to be proficient in the art and technology of constructing the built environment relative to design, technology, building science, and social responsibility.
Students will be expected to master the theoretical and practical concepts of design, building systems, components, engineering, and industry practices, and by expanding their problem-solving and critical thinking abilities.
By the end of the program, they will be qualified for a wide range of exciting employment opportunities including construction management, civil and building engineering, real estate, land development, construction sales, and facilities management.
We also offer an online program designed to working individuals to further their construction careers. Check out our masters degree program in construction management. Here, students will study topics ranging from lean construction, risk management, and construction delivery methods to finance, risk management, negotiations, and leadership. An optional technical elective is also available introducing the latest Building Information Modeling (BIM) technologies.
START YOUR CONSTRUCTION CAREER
Earn your degree in Construction from NEIT and begin your new career path today!