How to Recruit Women In the Building Industry

Improve your ability to recruit women to your construction labor force using these tips.

Although women make up 47 percent of the current workforce in the United States, they are a scarce resource in the building industry, representing only 14% of all construction workers and just 10.9% of all workers on actual job sites.


Fortunately, women have increased their numbers in the construction industry over the last decade, from just over 800,000 in 2012 to more than 1.2 million last year. And with an industry-wide push to build more diverse workforces to meet the labor demand, there’s no time like the present to recruit more women onto your team. With that in mind, here are some tips for builders. 


1. Adjust Your Job Listings

Your job listings should reflect your company's commitment to hiring an inclusive labor force and align with the diversity statement on your website. If you don’t have one of those yet, it might be time to start working on one! You’ll also want to make sure job listings are concise and positive, and remain gender-neutral so that you’re not eliminating any qualified applicants. 


2. Be Proactive About Hiring

One of the best marketing tactics for finding strong female applicants is to connect with veteran organizations and vocational schools in your community. Sending current employees to share their experiences in construction will allow you to tap into new networks, connect with potential future employees, and inspire the next generation of workers. 


Veterans tend to be a great applicant pool for construction companies because they already practice skills like punctuality and discipline. Similarly, vocational school students are already familiar with on-the-job training, which makes the transition from the classroom to the job site more seamless.  


3. Add Women to the Recruiting Process

Inviting your existing female team members to participate in the recruitment and hiring process fosters an environment of belonging among female applicants. It’s worth noting that a large portion of women who are already working in the building industry play a huge role in the administrative processes, enabling them to explain existing procedures and policies in a more relatable way.


In addition to the increase of women laborers in recent years, there’s been a surge of women entering leadership roles within the building industry, with 13% of all construction companies worldwide currently owned by women. So what does this mean for the future of your business? Providing more opportunities for women to thrive within your ranks could go a long way in creating a more robust business culture for years to come.


4. Offer Competitive Pay and Benefits

According to a study conducted by Zippia, women working in construction earned 96% of what men earned in 2021. To be truly equitable, you must offer the same compensation for equally-qualified female and male workers doing the same job. Being more inclusive across the board could also include adopting a fair parental leave policy. There are no federal laws currently mandating parental leave, but having a policy in place supports healthy families and shows employees they are valued members of the team through all chapters of their life. This type of support will only make you a more attractive employer.


5. Training Is Key

Women are harder to recruit because they often have less on-the-job experience. Rather than dismissing a woman’s ability to perform burdensome tasks at the same level as their male counterparts, make it a priority to offer your female team members curriculum-based training programs and peer-to-peer mentoring sessions with tenured employees. Relying on heavy lifting can often be avoided if proper procedures are learned and followed.


If you are not ready to implement a formal mentoring program, you can start with informal check-ins or casual chats over coffee. Advertising opportunities you offer to advance skills on your website and marketing materials might also encourage more women to submit for positions that previously intimidated them.


6. Offer Various Facilities and Equipment

It’s no secret that safety is a major priority for every building professional. It’s also no secret that ill-fitting equipment isn’t safe. Per OSHA guidelines, women’s personal protective equipment (PPE) “...should be based upon female anthropometric (body measurement) data." If you want to ensure safety is a priority on your job sites, it’s your responsibility to ensure you have the proper equipment for every employee, no matter their gender. 


7. Enforce a Robust Sexual Harassment Policy

A 2021 study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found that sexual harassment toward women in construction continues to be a major problem, with 44.4 percent of respondents claiming they have seriously considered leaving the industry. Of those respondents, 47.2 percent cited harassment and a lack of respect as the main motivators for a potential exit. Having a comprehensive sexual harassment policy in place -- and enforcing it -- will ensure incidents are investigated appropriately and instill confidence in your employees that the company has their back. 


8. Cater to Their Strengths

Men and women learn differently, and every employee – regardless of gender – has individual strengths and weaknesses. Take the time to assess all your employees, note their strengths, and seek out opportunities for them to use those strengths in different situations. Presenting your employees with challenges unique to their skillset will build confidence, teach them the skills they’ll need to grow into leadership positions, and help retain good talent


9. Put Together Strong Teams

As a leader, it's your responsibility to build a group of quality workers and managers with the right amount of dedication, skills, and talent to get the job done right – regardless of their gender. Make sure your team includes a good mix of females on both your leadership teams, to inspire employees to perform at their best, and on your labor force, to enhance your service offerings. If you put the right people together and pair them with managers they respect, you will be better prepared to scale for future growth.


It’s a win-win!

There’s still a long way to go for equity to be achieved in the building industry, but steady progress is something to celebrate. Studies show that women currently working in the construction industry earn 30% more than those working in female-dominated occupations. Additionally, IWPR found that construction companies employing women have a 25% possibility of achieving above-average profitability compared to firms without them. As such, it's safe to say including more women on your team is a mutually-beneficial strategy to retool your brand platform.


Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Washington Post

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