The Future of Women in the Construction Industry
[caption id="attachment_16221" align="alignright" width="300"] Anai, a student in Sierra Sage Academy's program, works on a construction project.[/caption] As NAHB concludes its celebration of Professional Women in Building (PWB) Week, we take a look at how the PWB councils across the country are encouraging more women to pursue careers in the construction industry. It’s no secret that the industry is experiencing a shortage of labor. Solutions to help attract new workers to the industry include everything from Construction Combines resembling NFL drafts to construction simulators mimicking video games to highlight the variety of skills and projects available in home building. As women continue to be a substantial part of the U.S. workforce, with 76.5 million female civilian workers projected for 2022, they provide an opportunity to help close the gap on unfilled jobs. However, many women view construction as a male-dominated field and may be reluctant to pursue a career in the industry unless they have an opportunity to explore their prospects. Exposure to the industry can — and should — start early.
Introduce the Trades Early OnLast year, for example, the PWB Council for the HBA of Greater New Orleans teamed up with a local Girl Scouts of America troop to restore and remodel a dilapidated cabin for STEM programs. Volunteers joined about 50 Scouts, and raised awareness on STEM-related careers such as plumbing and engineering for young women. "It’s good for us because it gives us the opportunity to do things we’ve never done before," one Girl Scout observed about the experience. Steph Reed, chair of the PWB Council for HBA of Greater Des Moines, identified a different need this year: No activity book existed to encourage young girls to explore the trades as a viable career path. The HBA developed an activity book to promote the skilled trades to elementary school kids and educators. The state of Iowa distributed book through the Iowa Skilled Trades. Other programs, such as Sierra Sage Academy's adoption of the HBI curriculum, empower young women by teaching them key skills that they can use in a career as well as in their everyday life. "We’re trying to teach women to be independent and not co-dependent on others," says Jessie Wade, deputy program director for Sierra Sage Academy, which supports vulnerable young women and helps them transition to independent living. "It’s super empowering to tackle these [construction] projects and build a plan." Anai, a Sierra Sage Academy student, was hesitant about the program at first, but through projects such as building a greenhouse and remodeling a staff housing unit, she has developed a knack for working with tools and learned a lot about herself in the process. "I didn’t think [construction opportunities] were possible for a kid like me," she shared. "I now realize construction can be for anybody. It takes time to learn it, but once you do, it’s second nature."
Start Making a Difference TodayPWB councils across the country have the opportunity to help instill confidence and skills in young women interest in pursuing construction careers by serving as examples of the opportunities available. "The incredible thing about PWB is that it creates a platform for us to show other women and girls what they can do, and the possibilities are limitless," noted Kristi Allen, vice chair of the PWB Council for the Salt Lake City HBA. Want to help more women pursue careers in the construction industry? Here are three simple ways you can make an impact today:
- Join, or start, a mentorship program through your local PWB council.
- Organize activities to introduce and support young women in the field, such as the Girl Scout project above or scholarships for women pursuing careers in construction.
- Collaborate with female leaders within your HBA to brainstorm ideas to attract and retain more women in construction.