Dirkschneider and thousands of women like her are smashing through a career ceiling. This one isn’t glass, though—it’s more like a slab of steel-reinforced concrete. Construction has long been a man’s world, from blue-collar trades such as masonry and carpentry to the executive suites of developers and builders. Now an accelerated wave of baby-boomer retirements has aggravated the industry’s chronic labor shortages. Total job openings in construction hit 440,000 in April, the highest in Bureau of Labor Statistics records going back to 2001.
That’s opening the door for women: The number employed in construction topped 1 million in May of last year, a first since data began to be collected in 1964, and their share of the industry workforce reached an all-time high of 14.1% last month.
Share of US Construction Jobs Held by Women
There’s room to grow, says Ariane Hegewisch, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), because construction’s historical dependency on men now risks constraining its growth. The institute estimates that about a third of women working in the industry are in the trades. Their share across segments such as painting and carpentry is still in the single digits, though Hegewisch suspects it will continue to grow, partly because of labor needs and also because states and localities want to see more diversity in companies when they award contracts.
“We cannot afford in this industry to turn down people purely based on gender,” says Patrice Haley, a member of construction giant DPR’s diversity leadership team. “A lot of that veteran talent is starting to retire,” she says. “We can’t leave any stone unturned.”
One of the things that draws women into construction is the tangible reward of seeing what you’ve built, says Haley, who started out in the industry in a hard-hat-and-boots job. “You get to say: ‘I worked on that, I created that.’ ”
Continue reading on bloomberg.com.