By Marla Esser Cloos, Green Home Coach

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.

  1. Less of a pay gap
  2. Ample job opportunities
  3. Exercise problem-solving skills
  4. Increasing prevalence of women active in the sector
  5. Women-centered scholarships are available
  6. 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.

Woman in work bloves and glasses faces left as she holds a board in place. Her back is to the campera and her T-shirt reads: Women at Work! - photo<br />

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 disciplines for women considering careers in construction. Habitat for Humanity 7th Women Build Miami image licensed by CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED, cropped.

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)

NAHB Young Professionals

Habitat for Humanity volunteer opportunities (must be at least 16)

Green Workforce Training & Accreditation (Earth Advantage)

Rebuilding Together local volunteer opportunities

Construct My Future Camp

How to Encourage Women to Join the Construction Industry (NAHB)

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)

The author:

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.

Meet celebrated leaders in the net zero space and shine a light on the possibilities. Check out “Elemental Green’s Net Zero Hero Hall of Fame.”