The conversation about women in construction has been going on for decades, and with only 9% of the construction workforce represented by women, it is easy to see why. What can be done to make the industry more inclusive and appealing to women as a career? The question isn’t “can they do it?” as it is, “do they want to do it?”
The truth is that this isn’t your father’s construction industry. From the designer, project manager, office, management, and even to the field, there are options for women if we as an industry do a better job in showcasing those paths. There are so many career paths that women can not only partake in but are even uniquely wired for. As I’ve talked to women working in the construction industry, they tell me that women are known to add a creative mindset to construction projects and bring the “soft skills” of diplomacy to situations involving deadline pressures and problem solving.
Consequently, they are less likely to burn bridges and more likely to help teams align and work toward common goals. Because they have different developmental backgrounds, they bring different perspectives to a project. In an industry that is known for having silos and protecting turf but desperately needing better collaboration, wouldn’t it be nice to have people around that are more naturally gifted in inclusion and finding common ground?
I think women also bring a valuable natural curiosity to the jobsite with questions like “Is this the best way to accomplish this task?” or “Can we use more sustainable processes?” That helpful challenge forces teams to look at a problem through different lenses and almost always leads to better, more efficient results. Only when we start challenging the status quo can we truly expect to grow exponentially.
There has been so much talk about the very real skilled labor shortage in the industry. And with so many retirees on the horizon, it is a problem that has to be addressed quickly for survival. Why would we not want to be able to tap into over half of the population? But it brings up an interesting question, do women have to start coming into the industry to make it more appealing to other women, OR must companies first start making it more appealing to women by changing policies and perceptions. The real truth is both need to happen, and it is in the companies’ best interest to make sure it does.
Although you’ll often see discussions about the balance between work and family that center on women in most any industry, the truth is that women and men both have families. They might be families they are building or families they’ve come from. The crux of the discussion is the ability for a construction employee – woman or man – to sometimes say, “no” to work. Whether it’s attending your kid’s soccer game or taking your parent to a doctor’s appointment, honoring your family brings respect from co-workers.
In episode 34 of the Bridging the Gap Podcast, I chatted with Bianca Holtier Coury, Construction Manager for Eagle Point Software, about this very topic and how to bring more women into construction. She is a builder, connector, change agent, and strategist responsible for facilitating process improvement and aligning technology with operational excellence across the AEC space. Listen to “Construction: Mixing Art and Science” to hear Bianca’s thoughts on how (and why) women are making inroads into the construction industry. She provides a valuable perspective on the challenges women face on the jobsite, how to support others and how women can thrive in construction.