As a long-standing member of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Professional Women in Building Council, I’m a staunch supporter of diversifying the building industry. There are scores of jobs of all types waiting to be filled, and we’ll need construction professionals of all types and identities to build zero carbon communities that will support us all.
Yet there are two realities in the construction industry today: women remain grossly underrepresented in the industry, and there is an urgent skilled labor shortage. As our skilled trades workforce “grays out” and retires, there is often no young trainee to come up behind. Recruiting more women could help reduce labor shortages.
Gender disparities in skilled trades
The building industry has the lowest gender diversity in the American workforce. According to an NAHB analysis, women make up about 11% of the construction workforce. In 2020, women made up 46.8% of the total workforce in the US, yet for every 10 people in a construction-related role, only one of them is a woman. Diversification is not only needed for the sake of opportunity for all, it is needed to build the workforce that will construct, maintain, and green our communities.
This blog from InterCoast Colleges does a great job of summarizing six reasons women should consider a career in sustainable construction.
- Less of a pay gap
- Ample job opportunities
- Exercise problem-solving skills
- Increasing prevalence of women active in the sector
- Women-centered scholarships are available
- A range of on-site construction and industry-related jobs available
Building the numbers of women in construction
Getting women into the construction industry, especially the skilled trades, requires outreach, training, and support. Events such as Build My Future, construction camps, and other outreach events show all students, including girls and young women, that there are lucrative and otherwise rewarding careers in the building industry. The Professional Women in Building Council of Des Moines, IA, produced a Construction Activity book designed to engage youngsters students to learn a little about building (or just have some fun with the activities). I appreciate them sharing this activity book with the 2023 Build My Future students and their families. I believe that the earlier we engage students, the more likely they will see themselves in a building and construction role.
Construction training and education
Training and education programs for the construction industry and skilled trades range from dual enrollment in a career-tech program during high school to apprenticeships to on-the-job training. Employers are hungry for trained workers, though it’s expensive to guide a novice to journey-level experience.
Once they have joined the construction industry, there are organizations supporting women in the industry and skilled trades. Professional Women in Building is one; other examples include the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), National Women in Roofing (NWIR), and Tradeswomen, Inc. Women Build events organized by Habitat for Humanity are great for women seeking to learn more about different building skills.
As part of the Build My Future OKC team, I get to show hundreds of students, including many young women and girls, the great careers available in our industry—the building industry—where we build community.
Women Build recruits, educates, and inspires women to build decent and affordable homes for low-income families in their communities. It also provides experience in different building discplines for women considering careers in construction.
More resources for new people and students
Green Building Workforce Development Initiatives (US Department of Energy)
Building Science Education (US Department of Energy)
Industry Career Paths (Home Builders Institute)
HBI Job Corps
Careers in the Construction Trades (National Association of Home Builders)
Construction Management Careers (National Association of Home Builders)
Habitat for Humanity volunteer opportunities (must be at least 16)
Green Workforce Training & Accreditation (Earth Advantage)
Rebuilding Together local volunteer opportunities
Women Building Careers in Construction by Sheri Koones in Forbes
3 Reasons Workforce Development is Now a (Big) Part of My Work by Green Home Coach
Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy Career Website
Wind Energy Education and Training Programs (Department of Energy)
Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) Clean Energy Career Maps and Training Programs Directory
Certified Passive House Tradesperson Training (The Passive House Network)
Marla Esser Cloos (aka Green Home Coach) empowers individuals to reap health and comfort benefits for the homes they work or live in. She created and hosts the Everyday Green Home podcast and curates Everyday Green Home, an online shop. Her book, Living Green Effortlessly: Simple Choices for a Better Home, shares green home principles and tips, exploring how-to and why it matters.