Women could be the answer to labor shortage in construction

March 14, 2019

There are more than 380,000 open construction sector jobs, and women could help fill the gap, according to ForConstructionPros.com.

Women make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force, but only represent 9 percent of the total construction workforce, which has remained unchanged since 2002. If twice as many women worked in the field, the industry's labor shortage would be practically wiped out, according to the Department of Labor.

"There's a perception that it's not an industry friendly to women," says Katrina Kersch, chief operating officer of the National Center for Construction Education and Research. Kersch says this is likely because of the scarcity of images depicting women at work in the industry and stereotypes of male construction workers as unwelcoming to women.

The Portland Metro Workforce Development Board recognized reasons women are absent in the workforce, which includes lack of industry connections, absence of exposure to construction careers, inadequate funding for pre-apprenticeship programs that serve women, lack of steady work and jobsite culture.

The construction industry offers good, high-paying jobs and a significantly smaller gender pay gap. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports women in the construction industry earn 97 cents for every dollar a man earns, compared to the U.S. average of 80 cents.

"We need to do a better job telling the story of all the opportunities that exist in this industry," says Brian Turmail, director of public affairs at the Association of General Contractors. "It's not your father's industry anymore."