How hiring women can move the construction industry forward

Strategies for building a more inclusive workforce

July 2020 | Construction




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.

The value of inclusive hiring

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


Hiring for skilled trades continues to be a challenge for many businesses, particularly in the face of a labor shortage. In fact, the labor market is so tight for the construction industry that, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, 81% of construction companies believe filling positions will be difficult for the foreseeable future.8 In a difficult labor market, businesses that widen their search for qualified candidates will not only have a more diverse workforce, they will also be more prepared to address challenges driven by the skills gap.

Benefits aside, hiring women can only help an organization if they actually feel welcome there.

What keeps women off job sites?

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.

What can be done

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.


Diversity of thought can help businesses innovate and find solutions to challenges they may have otherwise missed out on.

Construction firms that want a diverse workforce need to make it a priority at all levels, not just during the hiring process.

Life extends beyond the workplace, so firms that offer family-friendly benefits tend to recruit and retain women at a higher rate than firms that do not.


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.

about the expert

Clare Ryan Wydeven, Associate Vice President of Middle Market Construction

Clare Wydeven

Clare is responsible for business development and underwriting of Middle Market Construction and Inland Marine business. She leads a team of 45 Territory Managers and Underwriters covering a 23-state footprint. Clare's management focus includes professional development, relationship management, and practice ... growth. She plays an integral role in shaping team strategy and managing agency relationships with a deliberate focus on portfolio profitability.

Clare has over 20 years of Commercial Underwriting experience, having held both staff and field roles with Cigna P&C, ACE and Chubb. Clare joined the Nationwide organization in 2010 as an underwriting specialist before moving to a leadership role in 2012. Since then, she has held positions of increasing responsibility within the Nationwide Commercial organization in both Small and Middle Market.

Clare graduated from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. In 2018, she completed a Strategic Leadership Program at Columbia Business School in New York.
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