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  • Daniela Jiménez

Women in the Construction Industry: Great Change to Come

Actualizado: 18 dic 2019

mujer arquitecta

The construction industry is one where the male gender has dominated for many years, only 2.6% of employees in the industry are women. Even though female workers percentage is extremely low, there are some that earn the same or more than their male counterparts, this is because it has been noticed that women that decide to specialize in areas where the male gender is dominant, are considered "atypical" that means that it is possible that stereotypes usually associated with women don't apply to them, hence why they have access to bigger salaries and to more possibilities of advancing within their career paths. Nonetheless, most women still don't consider a career in construction because it doesn't seem viable, women have been thought by society that "construction is for boys".

Many of the challenges women face when entering the construction industry are related to gender and are familiar to most of us; gender prejudices, harassment, lack of benefits, proper resources and preconceived ideas about society and gender. There are also other problems that are unique to the construction industry such as accident risks, and whilst this particular risk is one that men are exposed to as well, women are particularly exposed to it because most security equipments are designed thinking about male anatomy.

There is a scarcity of equipment that actually will fit the female body right, hence, why the risk of injury while working is higher. Wage gap is another common theme among the reasons why women won't go into construction, females earn only 95.7% of what men earn while doing the same job and maybe one of the more important factors is that there aren't many mentors within the field. This problem comes from all the reasons already mentioned above and it also supports the myth that construction is boys club only.

hombre y mujer arquitectos viendo proyecto

Women working in the construction industry cannot only change the outlook of the same, it can also improve it. The female gender may propel radical change since it would bring diversity into the industry, it has been proved that companies with greater diversity are more effective, they sell more and provide creative solutions to challenges they may face. If women start occupying leadership posts, it's possible that overall performance improves, new and fresh ideas will be heard and women would have a new space where to grow professionally.

An interesting fact is that women who work in construction get paid up to 30% more than those who work in "traditionally feminine" jobs such as administrative careers, assistants and child care; either they're teachers or nannies, etc. and since the need for construction industry workers is expected to grow in the next 5 years, women may have more chances to participate.

Now a days there are several women who are leading the charge for change within the industry, in the US in the year 2010, there was only a 7% of female workers within the industry but in the last several years, the number has grown up to 15%. This means that company standards have changed, either because companies who are formed mainly from men are noticing the positive change women are bringing into other companies or because they themselves are leading this change. Women have played a crucial role when it comes to eliminating several challenges the female gender faces, they have more say in hiring, they're promoting other women's promotions and have been pushing for better benefits, not only for them, but for their male counterparts too. They have started to mentor others to occupy leadership posts and maybe the most important is that they're inspiring new generations to participate within the industry.

Inspiring new generations to participate is very important because they're presenting new options to young women. Instead of younger generations considering the same careers over and over again, they can start considering industries where they can grow and fast-track to their goals. A company that noticed that women in the industry was a good thing and are trying to build a more diverse team is Miron construction; they have initiated the campaign called "Build like a girl" which is trying to peak young women interest for the industry. Their plan to achieve this is through events in which jr. High School and High School students participate in every day tasks that a builder, contractor or architect would have to do. Women that work in these fields also share their stories and experiences working within a male dominant industry.

It may take a while for female representation to be equal to male representation but it is possible that in a few years, we'll see that the industry has changed because of female participation.

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