How to Recruit and Retain Women in Construction
International Women’s Day on March 8 is all about understanding gender equality and diversity—especially in the workforce. Here are some tips on encouraging more women to join, and stay in, the construction industry.
The construction industry is working hard to hire skilled workers all around the country—and retain those workers. However, the industry also lacks quite a bit of female influence, as only 10 percent of the construction workforce are women.
This Sunday, March 8, is International Women’s Day: a day that does not celebrate women’s superiority to men but, rather, recognizes the importance of gender diversity and equality in all sectors of a community, workforce and world. However, women make up 50 percent of the U.S. labor force but less than 10 percent of the construction world.
Research has shown how much diversity and gender equality can positively affect a company’s productivity and innovation. A study from Intel and Dalberg Global Development Advisors, for example, found a link between diversity and higher revenues, profits and market value.
The theory that women are not as capable contributors to the workforce has long-since been debunked. Women are active in so many of the areas that men have historically dominated like sports, politics, and more. However, there is still much work to be done in ensuring equal pay, flexible benefits, equal professional growth opportunities and accommodating work environments. Entire other studies and reports dive more in depth about how far we’ve come in gender diversity and equality, but also how far we need to go.
Nevertheless, the construction industry has the opportunity to recruit, and retain, more women in the industry for the better. Women can bring impressive physical labor skills, new ideas and perspectives, and other humanitarian considerations to a workplace—and the construction industry is no different.
Here are eight ideas for encouraging and retaining more women to the construction industry, as listed in a Construction Drive piece:
Create an inclusive job listing. The job description is often a candidate’s first experience with a company, so make sure you spend the time to craft job listings carefully by using gender-neutral pronouns and using selective language so as to not turn off some candidates, according to Wendy Zang, senior managing consultant at AEC executive recruiting firm Helbling & Associates.
A LinkedIn Talent Blog says it’s important to avoid gender-coded words like “rock star,” “ninja” and “dominate” as well as corporate speak and jargon like “KPIs” and “procurement.”
The job listing should emphasize the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and call out inclusive benefits like parental leave and child care subsidies.
Reach out. Studies have shown that women are less likely to not apply for a position because they feel they aren’t qualified enough whereas men will often apply even if they know they are underqualified. According to an often-cited analysis, women working at Hewlett Packard applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men applied when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements.
“Men look at a list of requirements and think ‘I can do most of these things’ or ‘I have the potential to be able to do this even though I haven’t done it before,’” Zang said. “Women look at a job description as if they have to prove that they’ve done all of it before.”
This means that companies and recruiters have to be proactive in recruitment efforts, the recruiter said.
“Identify potential candidates and encourage them to apply,” she said. “In doing so, we can bring female candidates into a recruitment process who may not have been found or attracted by traditional recruitment methods.”
Look for untapped potential. Hiring managers need to understand that technical knowhow is not the whole picture for what makes an ideal candidate. For construction jobs, technical knowhow is surely important, but so is an exhibition of strong leadership and interpersonal skills. Make sure you are considering the entire candidate and all his or her strengths.
Include women in the hiring process. Including other women in the hiring process is incredibly important. This will make it easier for female candidates to visualize themselves at the firm, and a diversity of perspectives always is beneficial. Without female role models front and center, women candidates often feel unwelcome.
Provide networking and support. Recruiting and retaining female workers does not stop at the hiring process, however. It’s important that any company build communities that value diversity and inclusivity. Companies can sponsor women’s events like Professional Women in Construction conferences. They can host dinners where there is open and encouraged collaboration and a space to share ideas. They can even celebrate something like International Women’s Day with a fun activity.
An apprenticeship program is a good way to help attract women to trade work, said Brad Bailey, vice president of communications and external affairs at S & B Engineers & Constructors in Houston. The company’s 16-week-long Women’s Apprenticeship Program, hosted in partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission, provides a combination of classroom instruction, hands-on skills training and on-the-job experience.
Women in the program are exposed not only to specialized craft training, but also soft skills and networking training through partnerships with organizations like the United Way. At the completion of the program, participants are offered full-time employment on an S & B project.
Offer challenging roles and opportunities for growth. Women are much more likely to stay within a company if they are given the same opportunities as their male colleagues. This applies to all industries, construction included.
“That means equal in pay, benefits, types of work, opportunities, and in the day-to-day treatment of women,” Zang said. “Keeping employees happy whether they are men or women requires inclusion and development as professionals.”
Assemble great teams. Women are consistently strong team members, and one big factor leading to job satisfaction for women is being a part of a team that works well together. Companies should create teams carefully and with employees that make up a range of diverse skills, personality types and backgrounds.
You can utilize a management system by Professional DynaMetric Programs (PDP) to help determine personality types and set up teams accordingly. The assessments identify a person’s areas of dominance, extroversion, patience and conformity.
Fight stereotypes. It’s no secret that the construction industry is male-dominated. While the reason for this has a lot of contributing factors, part of it is the stigma that women are not suited for industry—which is, of course, far from true. Make sure your company and employees are challenging negative stereotypes.
Many job candidates might not realize that construction jobs also involve accounting, marketing, project management and virtual design duties. There are many tech jobs within the industry that are especially appealing to recent college graduates.
By utilizing these tips and being conscious of workplace diversity and gender equality, it is possible to recruit and retain more women to the construction industry. It’s 2020—and it’s time to help more women envision themselves with a career in construction.