written by
Michele Heyward

The Road Ahead for Women in Construction: Challenges, Opportunities, and Progress

Work construction women in constrution DiversityandInclusion cultural diversity 8 min read

Have you ever noticed the lack of women in the construction industry? It's not just your imagination. For years, the industry has been a male-dominated world, leaving little room for women to break in. But why?

Well, there are a few reasons. One of the biggest obstacles is the lack of consideration for women's unique needs. Proper safety equipment is often ill-fitting or unavailable for women, making it harder for them to work comfortably and safely. Maternity leave is also an issue, with many women feeling pressure to work through their pregnancy or leave their jobs altogether.

The result of all this neglect? A massive labor shortage in the industry. But now, the industry is starting to take notice and take action. Efforts are being made to recruit more women, including increasing visibility at recruiting events and creating better fitting safety equipment. Networking groups are also being promoted to encourage women's participation, and school programs for construction trades are being expanded.

Perhaps most importantly, there is a push to get more women in management positions, giving them a voice and a seat at the table when it comes to decision-making. It's clear that progress is being made, but there's still a long way to go for cultural diversity in construction industry. The road ahead for women in construction is challenging, but full of opportunities for growth and progress.

According to a report by the National Women's Law Center, the number of women employed in the U.S. construction industry grew by 81.3% from 1985 to 2007.

Why Gender Diversity Is Important in Construction?

Gender diversity in construction is critical for several reasons. First and foremost, it's an economic imperative. The industry is experiencing a significant labor shortage, with estimates of 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030 in the United States alone. By tapping into the talent pool of women, the industry can help address this shortage while also diversifying its workforce.

Moreover, gender diversity brings unique perspectives and insights to the industry. Women bring diverse experiences, skill sets, and problem-solving approaches that can enhance the overall quality of construction projects. This diversity of thought and creativity can lead to better project outcomes, improved safety practices, and higher levels of innovation.

There are also tangible business benefits associated with gender diversity in construction. Research has shown that gender-diverse companies are more likely to outperform their peers, have higher levels of employee engagement, and better serve the needs of their customers. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than those in the bottom quartile.

Unfortunately, the construction industry has been slow to embrace gender diversity. Women represent only 9% of the construction workforce in the United States, according to the National Association of Women in Construction. However, there are positive signs of change, with the number of women employed in the industry growing by 81.3% from 1985 to 2007. Additionally, more companies are recognizing the benefits of diversity and taking steps to recruit and retain women in construction.

For example, construction companies are starting to create safety equipment designed for women, recognizing that the "one size fits all" approach to safety gear does not work for women, who are typically smaller and have different body shapes than men. Similarly, networking groups and mentorship programs are being established to support women in the industry and provide them with opportunities to connect with other women and learn from their experiences.

Challenges Faced By Women in Construction

Gender bias and stereotypes: Women in construction often face gender bias and stereotypes, both from their coworkers and from society at large. This can lead to discrimination and make it more difficult for women to advance in their careers. For example, women may be assumed to be less knowledgeable or skilled than their male counterparts, or may be seen as less committed to their jobs because they are also responsible for childcare or other domestic duties. Such biases can also lead to a lack of trust from supervisors and colleagues.

Lack of representation and mentorship: Women are often underrepresented in the construction industry, both in terms of the number of workers and in leadership positions. This can make it difficult for women to find role models and mentors who can help them navigate the challenges of the job and advance in their careers. It can also lead to a lack of support and guidance when it comes to issues like negotiating for raises or promotions, or dealing with discrimination.

Physical demands of the job: Construction work is often physically demanding, requiring workers to lift heavy objects, climb ladders and work in challenging environments. Women may face additional challenges in this regard, as they may not have the same upper body strength as men. While advances in technology have helped to make some aspects of the job easier, physical demands remain a significant challenge for women in construction.

Workplace culture and discrimination: Women in construction may also face discrimination and harassment in the workplace. This can include everything from sexual harassment to being excluded from important meetings or decisions. Workplace culture can also be a barrier to women's success, with the "boys' club" mentality making it difficult for women to break into male-dominated spaces.

These challenges can make it difficult for women to succeed in the construction industry, but there are steps that can be taken to address them. Increasing representation of women in the industry, providing mentorship and support, and promoting a culture of respect and inclusivity can all help to make the construction industry a more welcoming place for women.

Opportunities For Women in Construction

The construction industry offers several opportunities for women to enter and succeed in the field. The demand for skilled labor, technological advancements, supportive organizations, and government policies are all factors that create a favorable environment for women in construction.

Increasing demand for skilled labor: With a growing population and aging infrastructure, there is a significant demand for skilled labor in the construction industry. This demand is projected to continue growing, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a 5% growth in construction jobs between 2019 and 2029. This presents an opportunity for women to enter the field and fill the skills gap.

Technological advancements and new job roles: The construction industry is undergoing a significant transformation with the adoption of new technologies and job roles. These advancements include 3D printing, augmented reality, and Building Information Modelling (BIM). As the industry becomes more tech-driven, new job roles will emerge that require skills in areas such as data analysis, project management, and automation. Women can take advantage of these new opportunities by acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge.

Supportive organizations and initiatives: There are several organizations and initiatives that support women in construction. These include the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), Women in Construction Operations (WiOPS), and the Women Construction Owners & Executives (WCOE). These organizations provide mentorship, networking opportunities, and advocacy for women in the construction industry.

Government policies and funding: Governments at the federal, state, and local levels are implementing policies and funding programs to promote diversity and inclusion in the construction industry. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau provides resources and training programs to increase women's participation in construction apprenticeships. Additionally, the U.S. Small Business Administration provides loans and grants to support women-owned businesses in the construction industry.

By taking advantage of these opportunities and overcoming the challenges they face, women can play a crucial role in shaping the future of the construction industry.

Progress Towards Gender Diversity

In recent years, there has been a notable increase in the number of women pursuing careers in the construction industry. In 2020, women made up 10.3% of the construction workforce, a significant increase from the 9.9% reported in 2019, according to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). While the percentage of women in construction is still relatively low, the industry has made strides in promoting gender diversity and creating opportunities for women.

One of the most significant factors contributing to progress in gender diversity in the construction industry is the success of initiatives and programs specifically designed to support women in construction. Organizations such as NAWIC, Women Construction Owners & Executives (WCOE), and National Women in Roofing (NWIR) have been instrumental in providing networking opportunities, training, mentorship, and advocacy for women in construction.

Furthermore, the impact of diversity in the construction industry has been increasingly recognized by companies and organizations. Studies have shown that diverse teams can lead to improved innovation, decision-making, and productivity. A diverse workforce can bring different perspectives and approaches to problem-solving, leading to more effective and creative solutions. As a result, more construction companies are actively working to create inclusive workplaces that value diversity and inclusion.

In addition, the increasing demand for skilled labor in the construction industry has created opportunities for women. With the ongoing labor shortage, companies are desperate for candidates to fill roles. This has caused many of them to recognize the value of hiring more women to address the shortage and improve gender diversity. Technological advancements in construction have also created new job roles that require different skill sets, opening up opportunities for women with diverse backgrounds and expertise.

Lastly, government policies and funding have played a role in promoting gender diversity in the construction industry. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau offers grants to organizations that provide training and employment services for women in nontraditional occupations such as construction. Additionally, several states have implemented programs and policies aimed at increasing the number of women in construction, such as pre-apprenticeship programs and diversity and inclusion policies for government-funded projects.


In conclusion, while the construction industry has traditionally been male-dominated, progress towards gender diversity has been made in recent years. Initiatives and programs aimed at recruiting and supporting women in construction have been successful in increasing the number of women in the industry. However, there are still challenges to be overcome, such as gender bias, lack of representation and mentorship, physical demands of the job, and workplace culture and discrimination. It is important for the industry to continue to push for gender diversity, not only for the benefit of women but also for the benefit of the industry as a whole.

Gender diversity has been shown to have a positive impact on the construction industry, including increased innovation, improved safety, and increased productivity. By creating a more inclusive and diverse workforce, the construction industry can continue to thrive and grow.

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