Women in Construction, The MDC Group

Changing Times

The construction industry has been male-dominated throughout history, but women have been working in the industry since at least the Middle Ages. There’s even some archaeological evidence that women worked on buildings in ancient times. Opportunities increased dramatically in the 1940s because of World War II, when “Rosie the Riveter” campaigns drove women to do their patriotic duty. Women filled jobs from welder to architect during the war years, and although most returned to more traditional roles when men came home, gender bias took a hit. The number of women in construction has increased since World War II, especially over the last 30 years, and the trend will certainly continue as misconceptions about gender roles in construction dissolve, and companies see the benefits of hiring women.

According to OSHA, between 1985 and 2007, the number of women in the industry increased by 81.3%. Numbers declined after that because of the loss of over 2.5 million construction jobs between 2007 and 2010, but there were still about 800,000 women in the field, which was about 9% of all workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women currently comprise approximately 10.9% of construction industry jobs. Goconstruct.org says it’s 14%, and other organizations quote different figures, but all experts point to expanding opportunities for women. The total number of construction jobs could easily increase by up to 2 million jobs in 2022. With the present labor shortage and growing demand for qualified building professionals, companies must continue to work to reduce gender bias where it exists and increase the recruitment of women.

Gender Bias in the Construction Industry

There are several reasons for the gender bias that exists in construction. First, there are few role models in the field for girls, which will only change with the industry’s efforts to hire more women. Traditional upbringing and gender stereotyping of toys play a big part. Parents often don’t buy their daughters Tonka trucks to play with, and fathers may teach their sons but not their daughters to use tools. These practices are changing, and millennials and Gen-Z members may help overturn such old-fashioned ideas. Historically, schools tended only to track boys into some vocational trades, but that’s also changing in some states. Within the industry, people tend to think most construction jobs require superior physical strength. Many rely on training, skills, and experience. Women can also be physically strong, and many can manage any job a man can.

Here are some practical steps companies can take to increase gender diversity and decrease gender bias.

  • Use gender-neutral language in job postings and job descriptions.
  • Ensure bathroom facilities are gender-neutral on worksites.
  • Provide appropriate work clothing and safety equipment for all. One size does not fit all.
  • Post job offerings on tradeswomen organization websites.
  • Connect with local training programs geared for girls and women.
  • Establish and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment.
  • Build a positive corporate culture based on collaboration and open communication.
  • Seek out women-owned subcontractors and vendors or those who hire women for non-traditional positions.
  • Base hiring decisions on an applicant’s ability to do a job, regardless of their size or gender. When in doubt, permit applicants to demonstrate skills.

What’s Being Done to Increase the Role of Women in the Industry

High schools, community colleges, and local government programs actively encourage girls and women to enroll in construction-related courses because of the great pay and benefits. While there was a time when only boys were taught “shop” or trade skills, most high schools now encourage girls to enroll when they are interested. In addition, some large construction companies collaborate with schools and agencies to offer courses and even boot camp programs geared towards teenage girls and women. These programs, apprenticeships, and mentoring could bring more women into trade jobs and management and help fill open positions.

Industry Conferences and Forums Provide Resources

There are organizations dedicated to promoting women in construction, and they hold conferences annually to discuss and study women in construction issues and challenges. For example, The National Association of Women in Construction, founded in 1955, is an equal rights advocacy organization dedicated to the advancement of women in construction. The organization provides educational resources and opportunities, and the NAWIC’s Annual Conference offers workshops and seminars for women in the industry. Women in Construction or WINC and Women-into-construction.org also have annual events and provide support and educational opportunities. Women Construction Owners & Executives USA was established 40 years ago to help women succeed in a male-dominated industry. Members own and operate design and engineering firms, construction companies, subcontracting companies, and supply and professional services. Besides conferences and tradeswomen organizations, blogs and publications address diversity issues and list educational and scholarship information. One is Tradeswomen, and another is Constructing Equality, but there are many more.

Why Diversity Matters

Gender diversity should be part of any company’s diversity initiative. A report by McKinsey in Company reveals that gender-diverse companies are more profitable. They are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability. Companies like The MDC Group understand that diversity benefits them because people of different backgrounds, including different genders, bring different perspectives, new ideas, and different approaches to problems and challenges. In addition, the more groups or backgrounds represented on the team, the better the team understands the customers it serves. Today’s consumers also seek to buy from diverse companies. People under 40 are especially in tune with company hiring practices and may gravitate to companies that employ women for non-traditional positions.

The construction industry is expanding and needs to fill the present and future positions. Hiring more women will alleviate labor shortages and improve a company’s profitability. Modern culture has started to combat the stereotyping of certain jobs as men-only or women-only, and younger people prefer dealing with and working for diverse companies.

The MDC Group has women team members serving in all facets of the business including:

  • Employee Engagement
  • Estimating
  • Facilities
  • Accounting
  • Project Administrator
  • Fabrication

Between organizations like MDC, dedicated to advancing women in construction and increasing educational and training opportunities for girls and women, more females will look to the building industry for career opportunities. The sector offers better pay, benefits, and advancement opportunities than some more traditional jobs for women.


Want to know more about how MDC can help? Drop us a line!