Construction and women just aren’t mixing. A 2014 report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) finds that women represent almost half of the labor force, but make up only 2.6 percent of construction jobs.
The report also says that the disproportionate gender representation in construction has hardly budged in the past 30 years.
That’s weird and upsetting. A lot of other industries that have traditionally been male-dominated have changed, blowing past the construction industry at warp speed. Now more than ever, there are female firefighters, police officers, lawyers, financial advisers, and a slew of other professions (that were historically jobs for guys only.) So what’s wrong with construction? Why is it being a stubborn dinosaur—the wrinkled and cantankerous profession refusing to get with the golden times of equality?
We don’t know, but we want to find out. The solution is our goal. We need more women in construction for many reasons, and we will explore those reasons in stories yet to come. But before we go into that, it’s important that you truly grasp the enormity of the problem. Here are some alarming statistics from the report to sink your teeth into:
- There are more than 7,600,000 male construction workers in the U.S. but only about 206,000 women.
- A U.S. Department of Labor study reported that 88 percent of women construction workers experienced sexual harassment on the job.
- Between 2006 and 2007, 51 percent of women left apprenticeship programs due to sexual harassment and other hurdles.
- Data shows that women are rarely in the information pipeline to hear about construction apprenticeship opportunities.
- Thirty-five years after the federal government created diversity goals, women are still extremely underrepresented in construction jobs.
And those are only a few of hundreds of alarming statistics.
It’s time to make a change.
To bulldoze a new pathway, we must keep asking why women aren’t getting involved with construction. Do they feel kept out, or are they not interested to enter? Do men think they can’t perform in a construction job? Is the atmosphere unwelcoming once women enter, hence the low numbers of retention? Or, is the problem a little bit of all these things mixed together and spit back out into conversation business leaders would rather ignore?
We must listen, learn, and build a new future—together.