Washington – The Building Talent Foundation (BTF) recently partnered with two research fellows to study the barriers women face when pursuing skilled trades careers. The resulting research paper, Women Breaking Barriers: A Guide to Recruiting, Training and Retaining Women in the Residential Construction Trades, explores how the industry can strengthen the workforce by tapping into an underused source of skill and expertise: women.
The report reveals the construction sector is dominated by males, with women making up just 10.9% of its workers (U.S. Census Bureau), and representing only 3.4% of skilled tradespeople in the industry (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), and concludes that, to reduce the talent shortage within the industry, employers need to recruit more women.
The report brings forward best practices grounded in the experiences of organizations and women leaders and role models that have successfully attracted, hired, and retained women in construction careers. Based on insights discovered through the study, BTF has released The Small Contractor Quick Start Guide to New Talent, a set of step-by-step guidelines to help construction employers create welcoming workplaces that are inclusive to women.
In nontraditional occupations such as construction, tradeswomen face several barriers including gender inequality, wage gaps, occupational segregation, harmful biases, discrimination, sexual harassment, and assault. Through their research, authors Misty Farrell, director, business development, engineering and physical sciences at Boston University’s Office of Technology Development, and Teilachanell Angel, MBA, social impact, Boston University Questrom School of Business, collaborated with BTF to understand the barriers preventing more women from entering construction careers.
Farrell and Angel identified four implementation strategies to tear down these barriers and draw women to the industry:
The task of recruiting, training, and retaining women into skilled trade careers will take the entire industry to create sustainable change. By working together, cross-sector industry leaders and stakeholders can maximize their efforts to recruit women into the workforce. To fill the gaps within the industry and grow the workforce, backbone organizations such as BTF can unite groups across the public and private sector to align policies, practices, and resources to attract this untapped talent pool.
Finding skilled female recruits is difficult because most women don’t picture themselves in this field. To attract more women to the skilled trades, organizations need to use more inclusive language and images in their recruiting campaigns. To build this workforce segment, industry leaders must be proactive and intentional in finding prospective female recruits and paint a picture that shows how they fit into this field.
In order to sustain women as they grow their skilled trades careers, it’s essential to provide wraparound supports such as low-cost childcare, reliable transportation, flexible scheduling, training, and mentoring. Wraparound services keep skilled trade workers healthy, supported, and growing in their careers, which can help employers retain valued workers.
Inclusive Organization Culture
People want workplaces where they feel valued and belong. Creating a holistic safety culture prioritizes physical and psychological protection and offers freedom from harassment, intimidation, and gender, racial, and other identity-based harm. A respectful, dignified, and inclusive organizational culture makes workers feel welcomed and appreciated.
BTF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the education, training, and career progression of young people and people from underrepresented groups, helping them develop into skilled technical workers and business owners in residential construction.