Strategies for building a more inclusive workforce
July 2020 | Construction
BY CLARE RYAN WYDEVEN
To meet construction industry staffing needs, employers need to recruit women - but that's just one of the reasons they should actively expand their hiring practices.
In a field traditionally occupied by men, women may feel out of place and face obstacles that their male counterparts don't.
There are several specific actions that employers can take to increase recruitment and improve retention.
One of the greatest challenges facing the construction industry today is prolonged talent shortages. For years, construction firms struggled to fill vacant positions. In fact, according to recent survey data from the Associated General Contractors of America, 81% of construction firms reported difficulty filling positions in the past 12 months, and 65% of firms anticipate that they will struggle to recruit qualified workers in 20201. Furthermore, a quarter of employers in the construction industry view the availability of qualified workers as the factor that poses the greatest risk to the industry in 20202.
Despite the pressing need to recruit more workers, the construction industry has traditionally failed to recruit one key demographic in sizable numbers: women. In fact, women make up only 9.3% of the construction industry's workforce3. Looking at trade positions such as laborers, women make up less than 4%.4
This glaring discrepancy is an example of inequality, but it's also a blueprint for moving the construction industry forward. Simply put, if employers want to fill positions and meet client demands, they should consider bringing more women into their ranks.
It's a statistical fact that women are needed to fill the staffing needs in the construction industry. But there are many other reasons that employers should expand their hiring practices.
A Peterson Institute study indicated that more gender diversity, especially having women in C-suite roles (chief executive officer, chief operating officer, etc.), can increase profits, and not just for construction firms. Furthermore, a recent study by McKinsey & Company found that companies with diverse executive teams that included women were 21% more likely to be more profitable than the average company.
Diversity of thought can help businesses innovate and find solutions to challenges they may have otherwise missed out on. Fresh viewpoints can also enable companies to better serve a wider range of clients. The construction industry's client base is becoming increasingly more diverse, and gender-inclusive construction teams can have an easier time discerning the needs of those clients.7
Benefits aside, hiring women can only help an organization if they actually feel welcome there.
Many women simply never consider working in construction. Entering a work environment that has traditionally been occupied by men may make some women feel out of place.
Once in the field, women also face a number of obstacles that their male counterparts don't. A recent report from McKinsey & Company examined the future of women in the workplace and the construction industry:9
43% of global organizations do not monitor gender pay gaps that can lead to pay issues
73% of women in construction feel passed over for roles because of gender
60% of women across all industries report experiencing gender discrimination
Knowing these challenges, it's not hard to imagine why women don't gravitate toward construction. Luckily, identifying the issue is the first step toward solving it. And that's good because companies need the benefits that hiring women can bring.
In many instances, women are looking for the same things as their male counterparts when selecting a career: A good salary, flexible benefits and professional growth opportunities all matter. However, there are a number of specific things employers can do to increase recruitment and improve retention of women. Here are a number of ideas:
Keep in mind that these strategies will be effective only when paired with workplace cultures that support gender diversity.
For more information about the challenges that women face in the modern workforce, please reference this report from McKinsey & Company. In addition, to gain a better understanding of strategies that construction firms can use to recruit women, consider reaching out to organizations such as NAWIC. Other notable groups include the Women Construction Owners & Executives USA, Women in Construction Operations and Professional Women in Construction. If you're an agent interested in growing your commercial book of business, please go to nationwide.com/agents.