A Woman’s Place is On the Job: Opportunities for Women in Construction

If you want to start a business — or just want a steady job with good pay — it’s tough to beat construction. According to the Small Business Administration, many of America’s fastest-growing employment and entrepreneurial opportunities are connected to construction, including the building trades, contracting, building supplies, safety equipment, real estate and architecture.

Construction generates millions of jobs and new business opportunities for people of all education levels, and although the building trades have traditionally been dominated by men, opportunities for women are increasing, as governments and businesses seek to improve diversity.

Part of the greater industry interest in women is the need for talent. Women are 45% of the total workforce, but take only 10% of construction jobs. Although we think of construction workers in boots and hard hats, three-quarters of women in construction work in sales or management. 14% of construction executives are women, and 13% of construction companies are woman-owned.

Stereotypes in the building trades have been slow to change. 97% of carpenters, plumbers and electricians are men — although there is no reason women would not flourish in these professions — and there are several important reasons why women should be interested.

Reason #1 is growth.

US construction plows ahead at a steady pace of 1-2%, year after year. Economists predict accelerating growth over the next 5 years, with the industry reaching over $1.5 Trillion in revenue.

Reason #2 is wages.

According to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWC), women in construction earn just 4.3% less than men earn for the same work, while in the overall economy, that gap is 18%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a nationwide mean annual construction wage of $40,000, with the mean in large cities above $60,000, and mean executive earnings above $100,000.

Reason #3 is access.

Most construction jobs require training, but not college. Women can take technical classes for a certificate of qualification as an apprentice carpenter, plumber or heating-air conditioning technician. In higher education, women may pursue degrees in construction management, engineering or architecture.

Women seeking a first job in construction can begin as a laborer or apprentice, but starting with technical training leads to much more opportunity — and better pay, on a faster track. Training will also prepare a skilled worker for any required licensing, membership in a trade union, and in some cases contacts with hiring subcontractors or labor brokers.

Women entrepreneurs who want to own a construction business will need the same elements required for starting any business: a solid business plan and access to start-up financing. The small business owner will also need training in the desired trade or in general contracting, any required licenses or permits, a surety bond for performance on contracts, business insurance and a comprehensive knowledge of state and local regulations.

Women in construction can sometimes feel isolated in what remains a mostly-male industry, and as in every industry, women are sometimes subject to gender discrimination. Thankfully, the construction industry is rapidly adopting modern perspectives, and women in construction have more resources than ever for mentoring, professional development and growth as leaders.

Groups such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) offer members training and support through local chapters nationwide. All women in construction, from workers to business owners are welcome. For a comprehensive list of educational resources for women in construction,visit: https://www.nawic.org/nawic/EDU_Resources.asp

Emergent Safety Supply (ESS) is a distributor of safety and janitorial supplies. ESS was established in 1985 and purchased by Mary Porter in 2011. Over the last several years, ESS has evolved from a local/regional distributor into a national distributor. Our vision reflects our passion to expand into new industries, grow business through acquisitions, and deepen our customer relationships through our WBE and WBENC certifications. For more information about our products and our value added services call us: 800-877-1390