Why More Women Should Consider Work in the Trades
[caption id="attachment_16190" align="alignright" width="300"] Champagne Smith interns in HBI's electrical program and was attracted to the hands-on nature of the work.[/caption] The residential construction industry provides a rewarding career path for women — and plenty of opportunities as well. A recent study by SmartAsset notes construction laborer as the second-fastest growing occupation in the United States, with 40% growth in female employees from 2014 to 2018. Still, some may overlook opportunities in construction trades because they don’t view them as jobs for women. "The only barrier we have is that we believe it’s a male-dominated job, so we’re less likely to pursue it," observed Champagne Smith, an intern at the Home Building Institute’s electrical program, who recently joined fellow students at the White House to commemorate the first anniversary of the establishment of the National Council for the American Worker. "Usually when you see a construction site, it’s mostly males. It turns females off to believing we are able to do work like this." Smith had originally considered pursuing a culinary program but found the collaborative work of the electrical program to be more enticing. The variety of projects and the willingness of participants to help each other learn has fostered not only her growth in the program, but her interest in pursuing an apprenticeship program to become a journeyman and establish a career in flipping houses. Smith is one of several women in the program, which continues to see increased female participation, notes Smith’s instructor, Tim Olbrych. Olbrych works to instill confidence in students that they can accomplish anything in this field and highlight the variety of projects that the trades can entail. "It’s really about getting rid of the self-doubt that it’s a male-dominated trade," he shared. "And once that’s gone, the lights tend to go on." Women make up about half of the workforce in the United States, providing ample opportunity to explore the trades, especially amid an industry labor shortage. In addition to the variety of work and opportunities available, here are four key reasons women should consider work in the construction industry: Competitive Salary. On average, women in the United States earn 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. However, the gap is much smaller in the construction trades. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in the construction industry earn 97 cents for every dollar a man earns. Scholarships. Funding is available for students who are interested in or currently pursuing opportunities in residential construction. The National Housing Endowment offers several student scholarships and programs and the American Council for Construction Education has resources available for students interested in teaching opportunities in the field. Network of Experts. There is a growing community of women in construction who are willing to mentor and share insights with women entering the field. NAHB has a strong network of women in construction through its Professional Women in Building (PWB) Council. A Sense of Accomplishment. Working in the trades brings a sense of satisfaction for completing high-quality work that contributes to home building and ultimately helping to fulfill the American Dream. Darylene Dennon, the first tradeswoman to chair the NAHB PWB Council, highlighted the benefits of being a woman in the trades: "I was raised to think that if you do a good job, people will appreciate it. And always learn a trade. You can do a trade anywhere. When I was in the field, I didn’t think of myself as unequal."