Women in Construction: Building a Career in a Challenging Environment

June 8, 2021

While it’s true men have traditionally dominated the construction workforce, the industry provides rewarding opportunities for both sexes. In fact, there has been a substantial increase in the number of women in construction in recent years. 

In the past, the number of women in the construction industry grew from  619,000 in 1985 to 1.1 million in 2007. You can now find women working alongside their male co-workers, supervising crews, heading departments, and even owning their construction companies.

The construction industry is brimming with opportunities, all of which a woman with the right skills and capabilities can fill. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the construction industry will add about 296,300 new jobs from 2019-2029. If you’re a woman with adequate training and skills, you have bright prospects in this field.

Kick off your career with an Associate’s in Building Construction Technology After completing your degree, you qualify for employment in several fields, like civil and building engineering, commercial construction, residential construction, real estate, and facilities management.

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Earn your degree in Construction from NEIT and begin your new career path today!

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How Do Women Inspire Change?

women in construction

Women bring about a much-needed balance in the workforce.  Not only do women effectively manage their career and family responsibilities, but they also add significant value to the workplace.  A diverse gender representation can also help firms achieve higher profits.

According to the McKinsey and co-report, gender-diverse companies are 25 percent more likely to achieve above-average profitability than companies with less diversity.

The report also highlights that when women filled 30 percent or more executive-level positions in a company, and the companies were 48 percent more likely to outperform their least-diverse competitors.

From entry-level positions to C-suite opportunities, women are making positive waves across the industry.

The Present Status of Women in the Workforce

According to BLS, women make up approximately 47 percent of the total workforce in the United States. Women in construction constituted 10.9 percent of the entire workforce in 2020. That number signifies a steady increase in women’s employment within the past two years.

In 2018, the percentage of women in the construction industry stood at just 9.9 percent.

According to IWPR, number of females working in construction trades increased by 17.6 percent from 2017 to 2018, reaching well over a quarter of a million (276,000). The overall job growth stood at 3.7 percent in all construction occupations.

These figures highlight the fact that the number of women in construction is increasing year by year. Women are also now more open to multiple roles in the industry, ranging from trade jobs to construction management.

Status of women workforce

Challenges a Woman in the Construction Industry May Face

Some of the challenges that women face in the construction industry include:

  • Pay Gap: Statistics reveal that 43% of organizations do not actively monitor gender pay gaps.
  • Gender Bias: Women are the victim of 60% of gender discrimination cases at the workplace.
  • Exclusion: 8 out of 10 women feel left out at company social events and gatherings.
  • Lack of Advancement: Over 70% of female construction workers feel passed over for roles because of their gender.
  • Shortage of Role Models: More than 45% of women in construction have never worked with female construction managers.

Several other factors, such as labor-intensive work and lack of safety, further keep women from pursuing construction jobs.

On the bright side, these trends are slowly reversing. According to the National Association of Women In Construction (NAWIC), women earn an average of 99.1 percent of what men make in the construction industry. In 2018, nearly one in three companies promoted women to leadership roles.

The number of women who own a construction business has also increased by 64 percent between 2014 to 2019.

Companies are now working on improving their work culture by proactively recruiting gender-diverse talent to meet the worker shortage and promoting women as construction managers.

Work culture is improving for women in construction

How Do Women Positively Impact Profits and Collaborations at Work?

NAWIC  celebrated “Women in Construction Week” from March 7-13, 2021, to highlight women as an effective component of the construction industry. Of course, it takes a lot more than that to fully understand the role that women play in enhancing the construction sector’s growth.

We need to support more women leaders as a significant change most likely comes from the top-down approach. Remember, women can perform at all job levels in construction, ranging from trade to networking and leadership.

According to a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, women are more likely to collaborate than men. This is important, as construction projects require a high level of collaboration to be successful. Hiring women increases the likelihood of team play and cooperation, leading to significant improvement in a company’s productivity and profits.

Out of all the construction firms owned by women, nine percent achieved over $500,000 or more revenue. When compared with all firms, only eight percent of firms accomplished the same. These statistics reveal that female leaders make a positive impact on profits and collaborations in the building industry.

How Can Women Become a Part of the Construction Workforce?

The construction industry faces a worker shortage every year. Companies hire women in various roles and responsibilities ranging from trade jobs to heavy machinery operations and construction management. Forging a career in construction generally requires the following steps:

Earn a Secondary Education

Most construction jobs and degree programs require candidates to have their high-school diploma or GED. You can also improve your logical ability and skills in high school by opting for relevant subjects such as math, welding, woodshop, and technical drawing.

Obtain Relevant Qualification

If you intend to start your career as a construction worker, you can enroll in apprenticeship programs. These programs combine classroom learning with on-the-job training for two to four years and help you apply for entry-level jobs as construction workers.

If you want to work as a construction manager, you can pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Management from New England Tech. The curriculum consists of materials, design, economics, building sciences, and civil engineering so that graduates will be prepared to transform project resources into finished constructions.

Apply for Certifications

There are many certification options for aspiring candidates in the building industry. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certification can provide you with important safety knowledge needed for new jobs. 

You can apply for specialty certifications such as the National Association of Safety Professionals’ Certified Environmental Manager and Safety Auditor Certificates. The Construction Management Association of America’s (CMAA) Certified Construction Manager (CCM) voluntary designation can also help with better job prospects.

Gain Practical Experience

Entry-level professionals can apply for internships and training programs to gain on-site experience. Working on construction projects also provides you first-hand knowledge of construction site operations, which may prove invaluable later on.

Pursue a Master’s Degree

Construction managers who wish to advance their careers can pursue a Master’s Degree in Construction Management to qualify for leadership positions. These programs instruct on both construction and management subjects, including risk management, sustainability, finance, and dispute resolution, that can help you advance as a professional.

START YOUR CONSTRUCTION CAREER

Earn your degree in Construction from NEIT and begin your new career path today!

ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE

BACHELOR'S DEGREE

MASTER'S DEGREE

The online Master’s Degree in Construction Management at New England Tech is a great option for working professionals seeking to advance their career.

Master’s degree in construction

NEIT provides comprehensive degree programs in architecture, interior design, and construction management to help women kickstart a fulfilling career in construction.

Our robust curriculum focuses on a range of current and next-generation building technologies like automated construction methodologies, artificial intelligence, and advanced building materials. With a 10-week academic term, you can quickly master the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career in construction.

Learning Resources for Women in Construction

Women can rely on various learning resources to address their specific needs in the industry. These resources can also help potential employees prepare for the construction profession. They include:

Women’s Organizations

The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), and the Women Construction Owners & Executives (WCOE), USA, are some of the nationally recognized groups that provide networking, marketing, and mentorship opportunities. If you are new in the industry, engaging in such communities can give you the necessary support to establish yourself.

Construction Courses

Young girls and women interested in construction can take part in courses and boot-camp programs to learn about the careers in this field. If you’re a working professional, you can enroll in an online degree program to improve your job opportunities.

Specific training programs strive to prepare women for certification exams and equip them with job-specific skills.

Read on to learn about the best online master’s programs in construction management.

Construction Forums and Conferences

Conferences such as NAWIC’s Annual Conference and the Groundbreaking Women in Construction conference include seminars, workshops, and training programs. Such meetings address women in construction and teach women more about management roles, gender bias, and bridging pay gaps.

You can follow online blogs and participate in discussion forums to better understand women’s roles and responsibilities in construction.

Career Opportunities for Women in Construction

According to NAWIC, a significant percentage (44%) of women currently employed in construction projects work as construction managers and other management professionals. About 28 percent of women work in sales and office roles.

The service occupation sectors employ 21 percent of women, while 1 percent work in the natural resources, construction, and maintenance industries.

Common Jobs Across the Construction Industry

Construction and Building Inspectors: Inspectors ensure that the building adheres to building codes, ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.

Construction Equipment Operators: Equipment operators drive, maneuver, and control the various machinery and equipment used in construction.

Construction Laborers and Helpers: Laborers and helpers assist in tasks that require physical labor.

Drywall Installers, Ceiling Tile Installers, and Tapers: Drywall and ceiling tile installers hang wallboards. They also help prepare the wallboard for painting and help install ceiling tiles inside buildings.

Flooring Installers and Tile and Stone Setters: Flooring installers and tile and stone setters help lay and finish flooring tile, carpet, wood, vinyl, and other materials.

Construction managers: Construction managers coordinate and supervise various public, residential, commercial, and industrial structures. Their work involves interacting with specialty workers and city inspectors to ensure that they meet the required specifications.

Job roles in construction industry

Employers prefer hiring candidates with a background in science, engineering, or construction technology. A formal education in construction can also help pave the way for higher income and better job roles.

Kickstart your construction journey with NEIT’s associate’s degree in building construction technology. Our program helps you learn and develop essential construction skills in a hands-on learning environment taught by industry experts.

Salary of Women in Construction

According to BLS, the median salary of construction managers in 2020 was $97,180 per year. The top 10 percent of construction management professionals earned median pay of more than  $169,070 annually. BLS projects the employment of construction managers will increase by 8 percent from 2019-29, much faster than the national average for other jobs.

Unfortunately, the salary for male construction managers remains higher than for women. While the median weekly earnings of men in 2020 were $1,586, women made only $1,368 per week in leadership roles.

In all the construction and extraction occupations combined, women construction workers earned $796 weekly compared to men’s weekly earnings of $910. We’ll note that salaries may differ according to education, career path, skillset, and work experience.

If our country wishes to address the shortage of women in the construction and civil engineering industry, companies must pay an employee based on their ability, irrespective of gender. While many companies have been emphasizing gender equality, there is still room for improvement.

Salary of Women in Construction

Meet Women Who Have Succeeded the Construction Industry

Let’s introduce you to some of the most successful industry leaders whose strong determination, perseverance, and knowledge caused a disruption. Below are five reasons to feel motivated to join the industry:

Blue Coble

Journeyman Ironworker/Quality Control Manager, Local 75 Ironworkers/ Derr & Gruenewald Construction

Coble decided to join the industry after working for ten years as a graphic designer. She applied for a job at the ironworkers’ union as she loved the aspects of physical work, problem-solving, and being out in the field. The most important achievement for her was the positive impact she had on improving her firm’s diversity.

She last worked on an airport project that consisted of five women on the company’s team. Currently working on her Bachelor’s degree in industrial hygiene, Coble has made a mark both as a safety coordinator and quality control manager in this field.

Mary Patricia Geppert

President, Geppert Bros. Inc.

Mary Patricia Geppert has more than 25 years of experience in the demolition industry, during which she led some of the largest projects at Geppert Bros. Inc. She is now the company president, where her daily responsibilities involve overseeing projects, managing day-to-day operations, compliance, and field operations.

Geppert has played a crucial role in formulating the first industry-wide safety manual for the National Demolition Association (NDA) and currently chairs the safety committee of the General Building Contractors Association (GBCA).

She remains hopeful that the number of women in the industry will increase and encourages builders and business owners to recruit women and address the worker shortage.

Kabri Lehrman-Schmid

Project Superintendent, Hensel Phelps Construction Co.

Lehrman-Schmid was pursuing a career in civil engineering when she saw the Pentagon renovation project. She walked up to a superintendent on-site and asked for an internship. Soon after landing the job, she realized just how passionate she felt about the construction industry.  

After working with Hensel Phelps for 12 years, she now manages safety, quality, and coordination of all job site trades. She has also been a national conference speaker at NAWIC events, where she aims to promote diversity and generate support for LGBTQIA+ representation in the trades.

Peggy Hogan Marker

President, Marker Construction Group

Marker grew up in her family’s construction company which provided her with an early introduction to the field.  She married a construction contractor and went on to start a firm with her husband. Her team now comprises 40 percent of women employees.

She believes that women excel at multitasking, particularly in construction management roles.  As the president of her business, she works towards fostering inclusion and diversity at the workplace. Marker continues to inspire more women to join the industry.

Guiomar Obregon

Chief Executive Officer, Precision 2000 Inc. (P2K)

Guimar Obregon holds a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and two master’s degrees in civil engineering, business administration, and finance. She and her husband started their company, Precision 2000 Inc (P2K), in 1998 when the couple saw the need for minority-owned companies in construction.

P2K has now been running successfully for more than twenty-one years and competes with larger business firms. As a woman working in construction, she stresses the need for a concerted effort to increase women’s representation.

Her efforts in promoting diversity include a transparent recruitment and retention process that aims to open the industry to women.

Conclusion

There are diverse opportunities for women in the construction and extraction industry. With changing dynamics, we are now witnessing more women in construction, smaller pay gaps, and increasing opportunities for growth.

As companies continue to root for women in leadership and management positions, we can expect female participation in the construction field to grow further.

There is also immense support for young girls from associations, forums, and industry leaders to pursue careers in construction that can help you overcome your inhibitions. 

If you want to pursue a job in this field, you must focus on building your knowledge and capabilities. Once you complete your education and gain relevant skills, the right opportunities will surely come knocking at your doors.

women in leadership and management positions

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FAQs

Can a woman work in construction?

Yes. The construction industry offers diverse opportunities for women ranging from construction workers to engineers and construction managers. You can select a field that best aligns with your interests and capabilities.

What percent of construction workers are female?

According to BLS, women represent 10.9 percent of the total workforce in construction.

Can a woman be a construction manager?

Yes. Any woman with relevant qualifications, skill sets, and experience can work as a construction manager.

What is the highest paid job in construction?

The heavy and civil engineering construction industry offers the highest median pay for construction managers.