More Than Meets the Eye--Why Women Should Consider Building Careers in Construction

by Erin Leamy

 

Every year, throughout Women in Construction Week, construction companies across the country come together to celebrate their female employees and encourage prospective female hires. 

It's no secret that the construction industry is targeting women for recruitment, and not just during this one week. Statistics have continuously shown that a more diverse workforce significantly boosts both productivity and market share. In order to make any headway, the industry needs to work year-round at attracting and retaining more women. When we take a look at the numbers, it's not difficult to see why. 

Women still represent less than 10% of workers in the U.S. construction industry. And when it comes to the number of women actually out in the field, the reality is even worse. Data shows that only 3.4% of U.S. tradespeople are female. This issue is not exclusive to the U.S. either, as many countries around the globe are grappling with similar industry numbers. 

This issue is, of course, a complicated one. But if we've got to start somewhere, why not start with the basics? Why should more women consider building careers in the industry? Female employees make up 12% of the TG Gallagher workforce, putting our company ahead of the curve. We asked some of the women of TG Gallagher what it is that makes a career in construction such a hidden gem. And they had quite a lot to say. 

 

Oh, The Places You'll Go 

Many of the TGG women quickly identified a large range of possible career paths as something that the industry should properly highlight. 

"I think many women still think the construction industry means being at the jobsite, using tools and getting dirty," says IT Project Manager, Mary Allen. "While we certainly need women in the field, there are many other options for those that that doesn't appeal to. I don’t think the other aspects of the industry stand out as places women can find careers. Marketing to women at a younger age about career path possibilities is something the construction industry should do to help change the image and foster new talent to enter the industry." 

Skilled trade positions, those that come to mind when most people hear "construction", are those out in the field and on the jobsite. Examples of trades include carpentry, plumbing, pipefitting, and ironworking, but there are many from which to choose. We highly suggest performing some research into the different types of trades to decide whether or not a skilled trade position is for you. 

And yes, contrary to popular belief, other careers in the industry are available for a wide range of degrees and/or skillsets, as it truly "takes a village" to bring a construction project from inception through completion. Designers, engineers, and architects are responsible for the planning of a project. Accountants, estimators, marketers, and many more work to support the process and company, and management roles such as project managers and safety directors ensure that projects and business goals remain on track. To learn more about the many career paths available within construction, visit AGCMA's www.constructingma.org

"I always loved working with my hands when I was a kid, and now I have done everything from soldering, welding, and other field work to now being back in an office helping to coordinate a job," says BIM Coordinator, Kateri Nahabedian. She suggests that women with the same hands-on inclination consider a career in a skilled trade position. 

"I chose this career because I wanted to find an environment where I could use what I'm good at—office work—but not be chained to a desk," says Assistant Project Manager, Erica Sullivan-Duran. 

No matter where your interests or talents lie, with the breadth of this industry, chances are, there is something for you. 

 

Building Your Bank 

While the roles within the construction industry are diverse, the women also remarked on one noteworthy consistency—earnings and benefits. Construction companies are known to compensate employees well. In fact, of all the industries within the country, construction holds the narrowest gender pay gap. "The wonderful compensation package was a huge plus for me," says Project Accountant, Anna Ferhat. 

Also worth noting are trade salaries, which depending on the trade, typically range from $60,000 to $100,000 in Massachusetts. And did we mention no college degree is required? To become a skilled tradesperson, you must participate in a 1 to 6-year apprenticeship, during all of which you will be paid. An apprentice is required to pay much less for his or her education than a degree-seeking student, and apprentices are usually able to graduate debt-free. Trade unions also offer fantastic benefits that include healthcare and a pension plan. 

 

An Industry to be Reckoned With 

Construction is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country. It is no surprise that the industry holds a great career outlook. Over the next decade, construction jobs are expected to grow by around 11 percent. Workers are becoming higher and higher in demand, as construction companies simply cannot find enough talent to keep up with their exponential growth, especially within the trades. In Massachusetts, 43,000 new industry jobs are expected, as well as a 163% increase in female apprenticeships. 

Many TGG women give their industry major props for always keeping them challenged and on their toes. Says Safety Director, Valerie Stone, "I had been in general industry and food safety for years and wanted a more adventurous industry to partake in. Construction has proven to be the most exciting industry, and I intend to live out my career within it." 

Construction companies are constantly employing and perfecting progressive technologies to ensure that building design and construction processes are as modern and efficient as possible. Says Project Administrator, Donna Hogan, "With construction comes growth and changes. It has challenged me to expand my knowledge and learn as much as I can about the jobs my team and I manage."  

Not to mention, working in construction gives you the opportunity to quite literally build your community. "Being in the field, getting to see a plot of land go from mud and steel 'sticks' all the way through to a functional building is amazing to me," says Erica. Adds Leah Hoffman, Assistant Project Manager, "As time goes on, it's a great feeling to drive past more and more places in Boston and Cambridge and know that I had a role in the construction of that building." 

 

Blazing a Trail 

Finally, working in construction as a female provides the opportunity to be a true trailblazer. Many of the women we spoke with acknowledge that they thrive off this challenge. "If you have that kind of mindset, and you're anything like me, you'll be surprised to find others like you here," says Erica.  

But you certainly don't have to do it alone; several professional organizations exist to support and connect women within the industry, including the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), AGCMA BWiC, and Professional Women in Construction. In Massachusetts specifically, Build a Life That Works assists local women in jumpstarting a career in the industry. 

As this year's Women in Construction Week comes to a close, we hope that more women will begin to consider building advantageous and rewarding careers in construction.  

"You are just as qualified or more than the next man. Don't be afraid to go for what you want," says Mary. 

"The only way the industry will change is by increasing the female presence and encouraging more women to join construction," says Leah. 

"Being a female in construction can look scary from the outside, but once you allow yourself to be an active member, it’s great. I would never want to work in another industry," says Valerie. 

So, what are you waiting for?