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A New Challenge for Leaders of the Construction Industry: How to Hire More Women?

At Danella, we pride ourselves as leaders of the construction industry who work to keep life moving every day for our clients, but we’re also committed to leaving the industry itself better than we found it. As such, we can’t help but ask: where are all the women?

In 2018, the secret is well and truly out that the trades are a fantastic career choice for many men and women. Often considered a solid path to a comfortable middle class lifestyle, the trades offer better pay and more stability than many other industries. This holds especially true for women: many industries that recruit heavily among women require long hours and low pay (such as retail, teaching and administrative positions,) and the gender pay gap means that women aren’t being paid equitably with men for doing the same work. The construction industry actually has the lowest gender pay disparity reported among any industry as studied in a report by the New York Times.

How Many Women Are in the Construction Workforce?

Despite the high and equitable pay, however, the construction industry has one of the lowest rates for hiring women. According to a 2016 survey by NAWIC, only 9.1% of workers in the construction industry are women, and 45% of those women work in Sales and Office Administration. As a company that values people as our greatest assets and believes in treating those people with integrity, we know that having women so underrepresented in our industry represents an enormous waste of talent and potential. So, why the lack of women employees? As we’ve observed in our own hiring practices, the answer is a lack of women applicants—but this problem is anything but simple.

The Challenge for us as Leaders

There are complex reasons why so few women choose to pursue trade accreditation and go on to apply for construction jobs. Part of the reason is the fault of the industry itself. Even though attitudes have changed and we’ve seen many construction companies committing themselves to hiring more women and eradicating sexual harassment and sexist attitudes wherever they exist, the perceptions of our industry have not necessarily caught up. In other words, talented and hardworking women are choosing not to join us because they expect that they’ll be treated with harassment, sexism and disrespect. The challenge for us, therefore, is to prove to this potential labor pool that we are worthy of their trust. At Danella, we are committed to doing exactly that.

Danella commits to consistently conduct our business with integrity, accountability and professionalism. We believe that doing the right thing is just as important as doing things right. For that reason alone, we want everyone to have the exact same opportunity to bring their skill and commitment to the table in exchange for a uniquely rewarding career. We hire by merit, but when only 9.1% of workers in construction are women, it is clear that merit is not currently the only factor for hiring across our industry. If it were, there would be many more women already working alongside us. We need to do better.

Lack of Diversity in Hiring is Exacerbating the Skilled Worker Gap

As we said before, the great disparity in the hiring of women represents an enormous waste in talent and potential, and it’s a waste that this industry cannot currently afford. We are facing a serious skilled labor shortage.  As an industry, we lost over 2 million skilled laborers due to layoffs in the 2008 financial crises, and many of them never came back. Not only that, but our skilled laborers are retiring faster than they are being replaced. This is partially due to the fact that high schools and parents are emphasizing 4-year degrees and white collar careers over vocational schools and the trades. It’s also partially due to a lack of good apprenticeship and other training programs that give crucial on-the-job experience to entry level workers. In any case, the construction industry is currently growing, but that growth is being shuttered by the lack of skilled laborers available to fill the need.

So, how do we change that, and turn this into an industry that more women want to work for? We’ll be addressing those questions further in our blog series, so check back or subscribe to be a part of the conversation.