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News March 16, 2023

Female construction workers identify ways to improve the industry

The National Center for Construction Education & Research reports workers are retiring from the construction industry much faster than new people are being hired, and for every four people who leave, only one enters, according to Meanwhile, the industry is seeing rising demand for workers as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the CHIPS Act bring more projects. Therefore, recruiting and retaining women—who currently make up 14% of the overall construction workforce—is crucial.

To learn more about women’s experiences in construction, NCCER surveyed women in the trades and met with them in groups. Those surveyed identified clear ways to support women in the industry.

Following are some key challenges that need to be addressed.

  • Discrimination and sexual harassment. Women said they felt disrespected and subjected to unprofessional treatment more often than men, and nearly half said they had been the target of derogatory comments or jokes at work. Establishing and publishing a sexual harassment prevention policy is important.
  • Bias in the hiring process. Companies often require a recommendation before interviewing for a position, which can hurt women, who are less likely to already know someone in the field. It is crucial employers ensure consistent hiring practices.
  • Lack of flexibility for care work. Women are responsible for a disproportionate amount of care work in the U.S., and lack of employer accommodations is a significant obstacle. Providing support via clear working hours, schedule flexibility and consistent paid time off policies can help.
  • Lack of training opportunities. Women surveyed voiced a need to establish training programs to bring women into the industry.
  • Unequal treatment. Women want to be held to the same standards, receive the same training and pay, and have the same career advancement opportunities.
  • Few women in site leadership positions. Fifty-seven percent of women said they had never had a female supervisor. There must be an intentional plan in place to identify and develop potential women leaders.
  • Poor job-site experience. Two job-site problem areas mentioned are bathroom facilities and properly fitted workwear and equipment. Those surveyed noted a lack of access to restrooms stocked with feminine hygiene products and said most personal protective equipment and clothing are not designed to fit women.

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