Women Making an Impact: The Growth & Evolution of the Construction Industry

Women In Construction Week

We’re seeing more women working in construction than ever before, but they still make up only 10 percent of the entire construction workforce. And, the numbers for women working on the front lines are even lower. For every 100 employees on a construction site, there is only one woman and only three percent of companies have a female construction manager. 

 

Back in 2010, women held only seven percent of construction executive positions. That number has grown 14 percent in the past few years, which is exciting news for women looking for higher level mentors in the field. 

 

However, such low representation of women in construction is a huge loss for many reasons. Not only is the industry missing out on some great minds, skills, and leadership abilities, but today’s shrinking talent pool is making finding and keeping qualified employees near impossible. 

 

If there’s ever been a time for women to join the construction trades, it’s now!

 

With resources for skilled workers plummeting to record lows, the need for construction workers is expected to grow to the tune of over 1.6 million people over the next five years. 

 

If the pervasive shortage of construction workers isn’t motivation enough, this study may be. Research by McKinsey & Company found that companies that had diverse executive teams were 21 percent more likely to be profitable. How’s that for ground breaking news? 

 

It’s time to bridge the gap and build a better environment for all who work in construction.

Addressing the Challenges Faced by Women in Construction 

As Women in Construction Week kicks off March 1-7 in Fort Worth, Texas, we thought we’d do our part to encourage and support today’s women in the construction industry. To gain a better perspective on the issues facing women in the workforce, we reached out to a few tradeswomen in these roles and asked them to share their thoughts on their work, their challenges, and what they hope for the future. The following are a few examples of what they had to say:

 

  1. Injury Risk. Men and women come in all different shapes and sizes, but most personal protective equipment is still designed with the “average-sized” male in mind. Ill-fitting safety gear is a safety hazard and can lead to severe injury or illness. Companies should address these differences and supply PPE that fits all workers properly.  
  2. Pay Gap. Women make about 95.7 percent of what their male co-workers make and that number is even lower for women of color.
  3. Discrimination. Women are often left out of the typical team-building and morale-boosting experiences their male co-workers engage in. Women find they are often excluded from opportunities like training, overtime, and career advancement.
  4. Always Proving their Worth. No matter how many years experience on the job, many women find they always have to defend their credentials with each new client or company.
  5. Lack of Mentorship. Since there are so few women in leadership roles, women struggle to find mentorship or guidance on ways to advance in their careers or gain the necessary feedback to improve their craft.

Safety First: Changing the Future with Better PPE

According to Industrial Safety & Hygiene News (ISHN), OSHA regulations pertaining to general industry require employers to select PPE that properly fits each affected employee (General Requirements 1910.132(d)(1)(iii)), but OSHA regulations do not specifically address this issue as it applies to the construction industry.

Can you think of an industry that has more varied hazards than construction?

 

Employers and manufacturers that want to make an impact on the construction industry can start with better fitting safety gear.   

 

It really is quite simple. Take the time to understand the female body and design products that meet those unique needs. Simply shrinking sizes doesn’t cut it. A woman’s anatomy is different and to be effective, safety gear needs to fit properly. 

 

Baggy, loose or restrictive clothing or ill-fitting PPE can actually cause more problems than solve them. These are just a few of the ways that safety apparel and equipment could improve: 

 

  • High Visibility Safety Apparel tends to be too big or taper so much at the hips that some body types can’t wear them. 
  • Shirts are usually unisex or men’s and proper sizing is often impossible for the female body. Any loose or baggy clothing is a potential hazard, especially when working around machinery with rotating or spinning parts. 
  • Boots in women’s sizing are often hard to find, especially those with the protective factors workers need like a safety toe, metatarsal protection or puncture resistance. 
  • Glasses are often too big or don’t fit flush against the face, leaving gaps where debris or other particulates can enter and cause injury. 
  • Respirators and facepieces designed for the average male can leave gaps where the seal meets the face, reducing protection from dangerous gases, vapors or mists. 
  • Gloves are often too large and can be caught or pulled into machinery, causing entanglement or entrapment. 


➤ For women’s safety apparel designed to protect and keep you visible, click here


Get rid of the pink! It just brings unwanted attention. 

 

It’s great that more and more companies are supplying their female employees with adequate safety and personal protective equipment. But employers shouldn’t feel they have to supply women with pink safety equipment. If they want to wear pink, all the more power to them. But, designating colors based on gender is not only an outdated practice, it can be distracting. Women on the job site can have a hard enough time fitting in and gaining acceptance, designating separate colors for women can make this even more challenging. To avoid this, choose safety apparel colors based on the hazards they are meant to protect against. 

Words of Wisdom from the Field

To women considering the trade, I say go for it! Find a local women’s organization like WiOPS, MAWIC, or WINTER and get involved! Surround yourself with like-minded women who can mentor you through your career. And, when you get to the next step in your career, share your experiences and insights with others. Offer a helping hand to the next generation of badass female construction professionals.

 

Janeen O., Sales Representative

Follow on Instagram - @concrete_diva

Janeen-Oliver-ML-Kishigo-Black-Series-Safety-VestJaneen-Oliver-ML-Kishigo-Black-Series-Safety-Vest

Do your research. Find out which trades are offering apprenticeship programs in your area and reach out. Ask companies if they’d be willing to sponsor you. If you’re serious about wanting to get into a trade, don’t let anyone’s negativity stop you.  

 

Karen P., Special Inspector

Follow on Instagram - @kp_theinspector

 

 

You are welcome here and you have permission to fill an unconventional role. We're creating an environment and a career path in construction that will make you proud. You will be able to work hard and provide for your families while getting a little dirty everyday.  

 

Missy S., Owner

Follow on Instagram - @missyscherber

Janeen-Oliver-ML-Kishigo-Black-Series-Safety-VestJaneen-Oliver-ML-Kishigo-Black-Series-Safety-Vest

As a woman, you are constantly needing to prove yourself, show your worth while on the crew and that you know what you are doing. You need to not only show you can do it, but that you can do it BETTER. 

 

Alex H., Roller Operator & Dump Truck Driver

Follow on Instagram - @alexxhannahh

Absolutely take the leap and don’t look back.  I decided to, against my mother’s wishes and still to this day she is trying to convince me to go back to school for construction law because girls do not belong on job sites or design processes. Regardless of what she thinks, I am the happiest I have ever been in any career.  In my experience, the magic is where the building happens. Every day you go to work and strive to reach new milestones and before you know it, you’re comparing the preconstruction photos to a beautiful, functioning, new building. And the best feeling is knowing you put a hand towards it.  It is truly an all-encompassing moment of awe. All you need is to take the first step, find a good support system, and push yourself to build great things. Until you experience it, you will only see construction as the dirty, undesirable job portrayed on TV. 

 

Kate Z., Assistant Project Manager

Follow on Instagram - @construction_kate

Janeen-Oliver-ML-Kishigo-Black-Series-Safety-VestJaneen-Oliver-ML-Kishigo-Black-Series-Safety-Vest

Connecting & Inspiring Other Women to Join the Trades

For those interested in learning how they can support women in construction or for women looking for support and guidance themselves, check out these great organizations: 

 

National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) is a national organization that exists to support women in construction and other trades with development opportunities, education, networking, and leadership training. 

 

Non-Traditional Employment for Women (NEW) is a New York City based organization that offers a two-month apprenticeship program for women looking to work in the construction field.

Women in Construction Operations (WiOPS) is a Southern California organization committed to the advancement of women in construction operation positions and the mentoring of future women leaders in the industry. 

 

Women in Non Traditional Employment Roles (WINTER) is a non-profit work development program based out of East Los Angeles whose mission is to “train, educate, and prepare women and youth for transformative careers in the construction industry.” 

 

Be on the lookout for other organizations near you! 


HiVis Supply supports women in the construction industry and we’d love to hear from you. How can we continue to help pave the way for a brighter and more prosperous future for women in the trades? We’d love to hear your feedback on women’s safety apparel and what can be improved further. 

 

Share your story with us on social media and tag us @HiVisSupply or use the #PrepareToBeSeen. 



Looking for advice on the gear you need to work safely? Click here to get in touch with one of our knowledgeable members of the team.

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