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Boosting opportunities for women in construction in 2021

It was revealed last month that the construction industry in the US is only benefitting from 1.25% of women in the workforce, and that of all people working in construction, only 10.3% are women.

Despite this, we are beginning to see a promising shift in female representation within the industry, especially in executive and c-suite positions. According to this infographic:

  • There has been a 64% growth in women owners in construction between 2014 and 2019
  • 44% of the top contracting companies in the US have women in executive roles
  • 16% of the top contracting companies in the US employ women in c-suite roles.

While these statistics show a significant growth in the diversification of the sector, there are still so many issues that women in construction face on a regular basis, including gender pay gaps, lack of promotion opportunities, discrimination and exclusion.

Women in construction

Especially in 2021, with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing major construction projects to a standstill, the opportunities for women to progress have been further limited. With this in mind, it is crucial for businesses to ramp up their efforts in order to improve inclusion at all levels.

Working in the executive search industry, we place mid to senior management level candidates in construction on a regular basis, keeping in direct contact with global businesses and executives alike. We understand the cultures that define a construction firm, but also the hurdles that women need to overcome to succeed.

With this in mind, we have put together three key areas that businesses should be focusing on to promote women both in their organisations and in the wider sector.

Build awareness as early as possible

It is vital to promote the message that women can pursue successful careers in construction from an early age with adequate education programmes. In order to break down rigid stereotypes, young girls must be encouraged to consider the industry as a viable path.

STEM education is particularly important in this regard, as well as bringing in women who are already specialists in the industry to talk to the leaders of the future and provide focused workshops and internships.

A perfect example of this is the Tools and Tiaras programme, which provides young women and girls with fully-equipped workshops, teaching them the fundamentals of construction and how they can succeed in the sector.

In doing this, they hope to empower the girls to become trailblazers, and reinforce the message that jobs do not have genders.

Increased networking opportunities

In addition to improved education at all levels, there needs to be greater communication between businesses and women in the industry to provide for young employees. Without ample opportunities for women to both enter and progress within construction, then the investment in education to make young women aware of how they can achieve is likely to be wasted.

Achieving this communication has of course been made inherently more difficult by the ongoing pandemic, but it doesn’t make it impossible. In fact, with events like Women in Construction USA being transferred online, women from all corners of the country can attend virtually and gain valuable insights from female industry leaders.

Focus on hiring at an executive level

There is no reason why women who possess transferable skills related to construction, say, for example, someone who works in architecture, couldn’t pursue a career in the construction industry. It is crucial for large-scale corporations to make the sector appealing enough for prospective candidates.

Incentives such as flexible working hours and implementing a healthy work-life balance can help to bridge the gap between those in the office and the field and attract the most reliable female candidates, thus maintaining strong working relationships.

Imperium Global’s approach to search and selection in construction

As women working closely with construction businesses, we understand the challenges and hurdles that are ahead, as well as the volatile market conditions of the wider industry.

Imperium Global is in a unique position where we have many women working in the construction team, liaising directly with leading corporations across the industry in the US. This is something that is rare for executive search firms.

It gives us unique insight and perspective into the sector, as well as allowing us to empathise with our female clients and candidates to improve their experience at every stage of the recruitment process.

In working with these candidates and clients, we are able to experience the impact that women have on this fast-paced sector, both now and in years gone-by. It is for this reason, among many others, why we understand the importance of prioritising diversity across the entire employment spectrum.

The lifeblood of construction and built environment relies on diverse, forward-thinking individuals to drive projects and maintain progression. In particular, bridging the gap between men and women should be a priority for corporations of all sizes.

Authors: Josey Morris & Ellie Meredith

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