Historically, the construction industry has been very male dominated.
But these days, more and more women are working in construction.
Some work in sales, others serve in management. Still others are out
there on the construction sites swinging hammers with the guys. Some have
even started their own construction companies.
Unfortunately, discrimination can be a big drawback for many women in the
industry, says Ruth Bramham. Bramham is project coordinator of the planning
and renovations department at a university.
"Promotions to supervisory or management positions often bypass competent
women because men still can't tolerate being told what to do by a woman,"
she says. "There are very, very few women in senior positions in most construction
companies of any size."
The women who do work in management positions may be responsible for a
variety of tasks. They may purchase building materials and land acquisitions.
They may work on contracts or project estimates. Or they may put together
quality control programs. Others may work in hiring and supervisory positions.
And some may even oversee entire projects from start to finish.
There is also the construction site itself. However, it can be tough for
women to break into construction site jobs, says Bramham.
It's becoming easier for women to get into management jobs, but harder
at the trades level, she says. "Women's enrollment in [management] university
courses has increased substantially over the past 10 years."
Julie Lyssy is the marketing director of the National Association of Women
in Construction. This is a group based in Texas. She says it's not necessarily
a matter of gender -- it comes down to how you approach the job and what you're
"It can be tough to get ahead in any industry and construction is no exception,"
she says. "Your attitude and aptitude are most often the two determining factors
to how far you get and how quickly you get there."
More women are entering the construction industry these days because of
two factors: there's a growing number of women in the workforce in general,
and technology is continuing to advance.
"Some sheer physical strength is still needed, but the advancement of the
tools of the trade has significantly changed the requirements of many positions,"
Lyssy says. "Also, women in the workforce are more common. In the United States,
nearly 50 percent of the workforce is women."
The Economy and the Construction Industry
The size and depth of the construction industry magnifies the impact of
an economic downturn on workers, says Lyssy. "Many projects were put on hold
due to financing issues. This, in turn, affected all [areas] of industry from
engineers to architects to general contractors to every category of sub-contractor."
Despite the poor economy, Lyssy says there is an increasing need for skilled
construction workers. Many trades workers are reaching retirement age, and
will need to be replaced.
"There is pent-up demand for planned and in-progress projects," she says.
"The trick is getting the financing in place to move forward."
Discrimination in the Industry
Despite the expected growth in the industry, it can still be hard for women
to take advantage of the job opportunities.
"Unfortunately, women still face more challenges than men in the construction
field, such as discrimination in the hiring process, sexual harassment and
negative stereotypes," says Matt Smith. Smith is a heavy equipment operator.
"Most employers have zero-tolerance rules in place to cover harassment,"
he adds. But even that doesn't mean that women and men are working on an even
field yet when it comes to construction. "These rules aren't always enforced
as strictly as they should be," he says.
Smith has witnessed discrimination and harassment firsthand while working
on construction projects with women. However, he says it is getting easier
for women to get ahead in the industry.
"With a flood of young people entering the trades, I think that attitudes
are shifting away from the old-school boys club outlook and that women getting
into construction have a bright future ahead of them."
National Association of Women in Construction
A group that helps women succeed in the construction industry
Women Contractors Association
Promotes the growth of female owners and executives in the construction