To this day, women still face many struggles in their attempts to enter the construction industry. A lack of female role models and continuing issues of workplace harassment is what experts believe is to blame for the shockingly low representation of women on construction sites.
Even though much research has been done and there is growing awareness of the problems which exist, many companies still struggle to develop solutions.
Construction Dive author, Emily Peiffer, recently spoke to both construction and HR experts in an attempt to combat this growing problem.
What Can Companies Do?
One of the main issues Peiffer discovered in her research was a lack of awareness that change and progress is necessary. Companies should explore not just the moral side of improving diversity, but the business benefits as well. A lot this will require construction companies educating industry veterans to help them understand the importance of a gender diverse workforce.
Change policies which will support inclusion:
Strategies which create a more inclusive work environment should go hand-in-hand with any approaches to increase awareness.
Beth Zoller, a legal editor for XpertHR, recommended the following steps:
- Implement and enforce policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment based on gender, pregnancy, and family caregiving responsibilities
- Recognize that harassment can “take many forms” such as emails, face-to-face interactions, gestures, and jokes
- Offer regular employee training sessions so they know how to properly identify and report instances of harassment and discrimination
- Take all complaints seriously, and ensure employees will not suffer “retaliation” for reporting an instance of harassment
- Implement mentoring, professional development, and networking opportunities specifically for women
Ensure fair hiring practices:
Female applicants need to be offered an equal chance during the hiring process, with all new hires being based on merit.
Informal Events to Discuss Employee Experiences:
What Can Men Do?
Experts agree that for women to feel comfortable in the construction industry, male coworkers should respect that they are vital components on the job. Most importantly is that men should never question a woman’s ability to successfully perform the job at hand.
Should men treat female co-workers as “one of the guys?”
The best way to work it out? Ask. Ask female co-workers if anything happening on the site is making them feel uncomfortable to determine where behaviour may need to change.
What Can Women Do?
Responsibility for improving the jobsite for women goes both ways. Females should be proactive when it comes to reporting any issues they are having on site and not allowing any instances of discrimination/harassment to go unnoticed.
Don’t Let Sexism Be a Roadblock:
Riki Lovejoy, president of the National Association of Women in Construction, believes if a woman’s passion is construction, then she shouldn’t let anything (or anyone) stand in her way.
“I think it’s just a constant struggle, and (it’s not) just in the construction industry,” said Lovejoy
“I think it becomes incumbent on women in general to push through it, get into leadership positions, and make it happen so that we can change the image.”
Finding other women in the construction industry can help women get through some of the struggles they may be facing. Additionally, it will often provide opportunities to meet mentors and gain a greater perspective on the industry.
Interested in a career in construction? Let Trade Hounds help you! Check out our handy resources guide for everything you need to know to get started.
With females only currently making up 9% of the construction workforce in the USA, it is clear that the industry still has a long way to go.
However, with steps like the ones listed in this article, as well as a generally improved attitude from current workers to their female counterparts, there seems to be a promising future just ahead for any woman who wants to pursue their passion within the industry.
If you’re a female in the industry, we’d love to speak to you!
Message our Facebook page to tell us about your experiences in the industry.