The construction industry is something of an outlier in terms of wage equality. Women in construction earn almost 95 cents for every dollar earned by a man, significantly better than the nationwide average wage disparity. However, the industry still lags way behind when it comes to the representation of women in the profession in the first place, with less than 10 percent of jobs held by women today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Construction has been overwhelmingly male-dominated. The efforts to bring in more women have begun gaining momentum in the last decade. The skilled labor shortage has forced an industry-wide reckoning of sorts, part of which has involved embracing new technology. But, changing the long-held perception of construction work as something exclusively for men has also been a key aspect of the process.
Construction Camps for Girls
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) runs weeklong camps around the country to encourage middle-school-age girls to pursue careers in the construction industry, teaching key skills and giving them a taste of the opportunities available to them.
Recently, the organization launched its first such camp in Texas. Girls will try their hands at pouring concrete, wiring their own lamps and even building a free library stand, MyHighPlains.com writes.
“There’s just not a lot of talk about what opportunities are out there, and that’s kind of our goal is to show the kids what else there could be,” Jordan Moore, a specialist at a local plumbing supplier and a board member at NAWIC’s Austin chapter.
Moore’s own path as a woman in the trades, where she started as a plumber’s apprentice, included clients being surprised at her gender.
Moore told My High Plains that clients would “usually open the door and go, ‘Oh, it’s a girl!’, so it was kind of like having a new baby every new service visit that you went on.”
Promising Careers in the Field
Showing young girls that although male-dominated spaces like construction used to be mostly off-limits to them, they are viable and promising careers in this industry. The Austin Independent School District is seeking to give these young would-be construction professionals a leg-up in finding a career path that is right for them.
The Austin NAWIC camp is held at Crockett High School’s construction technology building. It is the only such program in the district allowing students to earn credits toward an Associate’s Degree of Applied Science in construction management in cooperation with Austin Community College. Program coordinator Charla Merrel said that in an average year, up to 15 students typically make it all the way to the college-level classes. Next year, there are four girls among the 18 students who will be taking the college courses.
Parents Can Help Foster Construction Careers
School districts are typically strapped for cash, and funding constraints might limit the number of full-on apprenticeship programs available for the time being. However, Merrel said, parent outreach and career fairs can also be effective tools in sparking interest in the profession among school-age girls.
Anahi, an 8th-grader participating in the camp, has parents in the construction industry. She wants to follow in their footsteps, working with her hands and creating something of her very own.
“We can do the same thing as a guy can do,” Anahi told My High Plains.
Encouraging this innate drive in young girls can change the landscape of the industry as invisible barriers preventing certain groups from pursuing certain careers continue to collapse.
As is the case with diversity and inclusion efforts in any industry, the benefits of bringing in a broader depth and breadth of skills and viewpoints to construction are impossible to ignore. With the demographics shift, companies making legitimate efforts to include workers with different backgrounds and perspectives will find themselves ahead of the curve.