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Why Are Women Increasingly Seeking Employment in Construction?
This question has a one-word answer: opportunity. More specifically, women are attracted by the range of career options, income potential, and opportunities for advancement in construction today. Additionally, societal attitudes toward women in traditionally male occupations have changed significantly in recent decades. Let’s take a closer look at these factors and how they have led to the current influx of women in the construction industry.
With the billions of dollars the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is pumping into the construction industry, a 2022 estimate places the 2023 demand for skilled workers in the construction trades at 590,000 in addition to the normal pace of hiring. The aging of the U.S. construction workforce and a decrease in the number of young people choosing a career in construction is making it hard for construction companies to recruit enough new workers.
The number of construction workers between the ages of 25 and 54 decreased by 8% over the past decade. Given that the average retirement age in the construction industry is 61 and about 20% of current construction workers are over 55, the demand for new construction workers will only continue to increase. At the same time, fewer high schools are offering vocational education, and the percentage of people under age 25 entering the construction industry has dropped from 12.5% in 2007 to 9% in 2018.
During the past decade, more than 40% of new workers have been low-skilled laborers, while the number of qualified, skilled workers in the construction workforce has declined significantly. Consequently, opportunities for women in the skilled construction trades abound.
Careers for Women in Construction
It takes people with a wide range of skill sets to design, build, renovate, or remodel buildings and infrastructure elements such as bridges and tunnels. Historically, when women entered the construction industry, it was in a design, administrative, or management role rather than in the field. More recently, women have been seeking training and employment in construction trades and working as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, HVAC technicians, welders, and so on.
According to NAWIC, the gender pay gap in the construction industry is smaller than in most sectors of the U.S. economy. Women in construction earn 99.1% of what male construction workers earn in the same jobs. Compare that to the average pay for working women in the United States, which is 81.1% of what men earn for the same work.
Changing Societal Attitudes
For much of the 1900s, women working in traditionally male jobs were relatively few and far between. It was rare to see a female firefighter or police officer or a woman operating heavy construction equipment. Women who did venture into male-dominated fields were regarded as odd, unfeminine, and were accused of taking jobs away from men who needed to support their families. Fortunately, that attitude has changed considerably since women have taken on new roles and have been actively participating in the economy as employees and entrepreneurs.
Women now hold about 11% of all construction jobs but only about 1% of on-site jobs. However, despite the fear of gender-based harassment or discrimination, nearly 90% of women working in construction report being treated with respect by their male coworkers. And 80% report being treated with as much respect as the men they work with.
Implications for the Future
The commitment of billions of dollars of funds authorized by IIJA is helping fuel the growth of the construction industry in 2023 and beyond. Increasing their gender diversity puts construction companies in a better position to compete for government-funded projects, but only if they have the necessary bonding capacity.
At a minimum, a company must be able to obtain both a performance bond and a payment bond to be regarded as a qualified bidder. In many cases, a bid bond may also be required. Surety bond underwriters look closely at every application for a construction bond to evaluate the applicant’s industry experience, technical qualifications, credit history, and financial strength and stability.
There’s no time like the present to begin working with a surety bond provider to establish or increase sufficient bonding capacity to grow your construction business.
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