Currently, women make up about 11% of the construction workforce. Careers in construction offer great pay, career advancement opportunities, and job satisfaction. Plus, construction work is readily available in every region and there will always be a need. So, the question is not can a woman work in construction but how to get started.
Here are few of the many paths to construction available for women:
Getting started in the trades
The skilled trades offer competitive pay and benefits compared to careers requiring a college degree, yet still offer the opportunity for advancement to management and ownership roles. For women entering the workforce for the first time, pre-apprenticeship programs can prepare women for success in a skilled trade apprenticeship program. Organizations like Philadelphia Works provide extensive resources for young women considering a career in construction.
Making a career change
For women considering switching careers, “a career in the construction industry is exciting and you can find a wide variety of roles to suit your existing skillset, from design to IT, management to office-based, with everything in between,” according to Go Construct, which provides online resources for people seeking a career in construction.
For some women, a career change in construction is more than switching industries. LaSonia Mansfield was a nurse at San Quentin Prison before choosing a career in construction. With help from the Golden State Warriors’ Franchise Fund, Mansfield was able to start her own construction cleanup company. In an article in The Philadelphia Tribune, Mansfield said, “I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur. I’ve had dreams of a two-piece suit and a briefcase for years. I was just looking at all the construction going up, and we clean well, but I never knew the business of construction, so I started researching it and found out I needed a contractor’s license, and I just jumped in with two feet.”
Returning from a career break
Many women voluntarily leave the workforce, often to care for children or elderly parents. During the pandemic, that number greatly increased. For those looking to re-enter the workforce, returnships—paid internships for workers returning after a career break—provide opportunities to refresh skills, learn the newest technology, and transition to company culture. Returnships are more common in STEM fields (such as engineering and IT) and in financial services but are beginning to be offered in the construction industry. Construction Dive reported that Skanska UK has recently initiated a STEM returnship program. Some companies with return-to-work programs in the US include Bechtel, Jacobs, and Schneider Electric.
So, can a woman work in construction?
The answer is yes, just choose your path. The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) can help. NAWIC provides support, networking, mentorship, educational opportunities, leadership training, and advocacy for all women in construction. With more than 6,100 members in 118 chapters across the US, NAWIC is the leading organization for women in the industry. Reach out to a chapter near you to learn more.