man in white hard hat standing on brown wooden dock during daytime
man in white hard hat standing on brown wooden dock during daytime

Women in Construction

A construction company’s perpetual woe seems to be an inability to find enough laborers for upcoming projects. Intensified by the current labor shortage, it would be in a company’s best interest to look at non-traditional groups for potential hires.

Women are a massive segment of untapped workers: they remain underrepresented in most trade work industries. For example, fewer than one in 20 construction workers in 2018 were women—less than 10 percent. When asked, 59 percent of those women said fewer than one in 20 women are in leadership roles where they work—that’s less than five percent of industry leaders.

Allison Otto, president and CEO of Otto Construction, wants to encourage more women to try construction work. “Women bring a value and perspective to construction that is needed and wanted,” said Otto.

Why aren't more women working in construction?

Most courses of action are common sense and benefit your current workforce, including outreach and advocacy.

How can you hire more women?

Some women join the fray, but face significant hurdles, chiefly discrimination and sexual harassment. When Barbara Res was hired as an engineer in the 1970s, she was refused access to construction sites and endured intimidation, sexual harassment, and discrimination. Despite the obstacles, she stuck with it, and rose to the rank of executive vice president of the Trump Organization.

Other barriers include a lack of mentors and assumptions about women’s physical capabilities. We need to work together as an industry to encourage women to explore construction careers and not discourage them with the usual stigmas.

Change the perception of the job

Unfortunately, we can’t do much about the current societal and psychological blocks that women feel construction is a man’s job. We can undo these with outreach and education programs to dismantle perceptions about what construction work.

This issue is prevalent not only amongst women but younger generations as well. Everyone understands that construction can be a physical, labor-intensive job. The industry is no longer focused solely on intense physical exertion. Construction technology is opening new avenues for job opportunities and growth. Women can excel in these new opportunities, such as project managers, crew supervisors, and safety managers.

Outline the benefits

Construction pays well. The industry’s gender pay gap is usually narrower than in other sectors. While women in other industries make 81 cents to a man’s dollar on average, in construction, that is 94 cents for every dollar. Along with job security, benefits, and paid time off, there is real value for everyone.

Seek, train, and retain talent

Offer apprenticeships or paid on-the-job learning opportunities for women. Take advantage of college job fairs by taking part and seeking talent out. Trade unions are also performing more outreach to women as potential employees.

Once hired, create a training and onboarding process that is welcoming for all new hires. You can achieve this by training women hires on an all (or mostly)-women crew. This removes the pressure of learning a challenging skill in front of experienced male colleagues—much like a new father learning to change a diaper from another father instead of a skilled nurse.

After training, support your employees. Senior staff members should invest time in the women in the company. Rewards and promotion should be based on merit and results.

Encourage advancement

Employees quitting their jobs today are frustrated at the lack of opportunities for growth or advancement in their current workplace. Construction companies are sensitive to these changes. They are often small to mid-sized family businesses, with little room for advancement because roles simply aren’t available. Encourage career growth and advancement by leveling up skills, so your employees can find other opportunities.


Most women in construction—65 percent, in fact—believe that leadership listens to men and women equally. While this number could be higher, one in three women don’t feel respected or valued as much as their male coworkers. Women feel that they have to demonstrate their knowledge before being respected, while men are given more leeway.

It will take time to shift the perception that construction is just a man’s job. It can start with actively listening to female employees, from ideas to contributions to workplace problems. Company leadership needs to lead by example and ensure that they respect the women in their organization. Human resource departments must have stringent rules and challenge every instance and form of harassment, bullying, sexism, and discrimination.

Moving Forward

These steps are not only helpful in enhancing your hiring practices but also in finding and retaining new talent at your business, regardless of gender. Women absolutely have skills and a viewpoint that are beneficial to the construction industry.

To further your efforts, you can partner with organizations to help your business hire more women and make industry-driven changes. Women of Asphalt offers internships, job boards, education, and partnerships to get more women involved in the asphalt and paving industries. The National Association of Women in Construction offers education opportunities, support, and networking to help advance women in construction, build their technical skills, and become industry leaders.