Breaking Ground: 6 Steps to Boost Gender Equality in the Construction Industry

Crucial steps companies should take to help boost gender equality in the construction industry and correct a historical imbalance.

According to a recent report on women in the construction industry, only 2.6% of the 7.1 million Americans employed in construction-related occupations in 2013 were women, a percentage that hasn't appreciably increased since the 1970s, despite the fact that women make up almost half of workers in all occupations.

Women are also underrepresented in federal construction apprenticeship programs. At the end of 2012, they made up 6.3 percent of all active apprentices within federally administered programs, yet only 2.2 percent of active apprentices in the construction industry. They're also less likely to complete their apprenticeships. Is this because women just aren't up to the challenge, or don't have an interest in these jobs? Of course not.

Why would women want to work in construction, anyway? The same reasons men do. Construction industry careers can offer relatively high pay without the education requirements of other industries. The median hourly wage was $19.55 in 2013, roughly double that of female-dominated occupations like home health aides, housekeepers and child care workers. Plus, women in construction face a smaller wage gap than women workers overall.

United Rentals is committed to positively influencing trends in the industry. The company is an active member and sponsor of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), an international association that promotes and supports the advancement and employment of women in the construction industry. In addition, employees have access to internal resources like networking groups and professional development.

So what can construction companies do to help address the issue, and bring more qualified female employees into the workplace? The National Women's Law Center, a nonprofit organization working to expand opportunities for women and their families, names a number of steps you can take.

6 Steps the National Women's Law Center Says to Keep in Mind When Expanding Your Construction Workforce: 

  1. Write out a plan indicating how you intend to improve the number of women among your employees.
  2. Monitor the demographics of your company, and actively work to build a more diverse workforce.
  3. Formally partner with community-based organizations to bring women into the trades, engage in outreach and keep track of recruitment efforts.
  4. Expand apprenticeship opportunities for women.
  5. Establish a written anti-harassment policy.
  6. Provide diversity training for employees, and hold your subcontractors to the standard of workplaces free of discrimination, harassment and coercion.

Come back for more tips on workforce issues, including vocational and technical training programs, at United Rentals' Project Uptime.


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