by Jacqueline A. Falla
If I were a brilliant brand rehabilitation expert, I’d take the construction industry by the crane and string the difficult, dangerous, and unpleasant aspects of its brand image up by its dirt covered boots and get to the serious business of dusting them off. Time, I believe, is no longer on its side, for we have arrived at a perfect moment. This confluence of events – me too, plus diversity and inclusion, plus massive labor shortages in the industry – all adds up to a rare, but not unheard of, willingness to allow the tides of change to clean up those old boots.
Like any corporation that has suffered a crisis which has damaged, or threatens to damage, its image, the construction industry needs a little public relations renovation. Having made my career in this industry, albeit not in the field, I can attest to the fact that construction is one of the most rewarding places you can choose to be. The fact that only 9% of the construction workforce is female – some estimate that it’s a single percent on-site, need not be a deterrent. I consider it a point of pride, like the pioneering women that came before me, flying F14 Tomcats, running countries, and seeking medical degrees before women were allowed to receive them. Women and young girls that choose construction will be considered pathfinders for generations to come.
In a time when the wage gap, with all its equal rights shortcomings, is under a microscope and the pay by gender curtain is being raised on corporations, the construction industry has one of the slimmest margins of disparity among professions, and offers some of the most stable work a woman, or a man, can get. If you choose this field, the news gets even better. Unions will pay for your training, and the outrageous cost of a college education need not be your concern. Women that work in a trade can begin early, accumulate wealth faster, and retire sooner than the majority of women in traditional “female role” jobs like nursing, teaching or childcare.
A sense of purpose and meaning in one’s chosen career is not a given. Recent studies indicate that more than half of the American workforce feel no real connection to their jobs. Feeling connected is important as it results in increased productivity, pride, and a sense of accomplishment. Building offers these opportunities for connection through creation. The impact we all have, whether we are putting pen to paper to describe the renovation and restoration process, or wiring the space to support the latest technology, is that we are making a difference in people’s lives, and the evidence is all around us. At the end of the day, to be able to say, “I built that,” gives meaning to our existence.
Be a role model, support a life worth living, and love what you are doing. Women in Construction should be more than a week – it should be an undisputed reality.
Jacqueline A. Falla is the director of client services at Elaine Construction Company.