AZ Big Media How women in construction are paving the way for new talent

Women in construction are carving out a place for themselves in history. But, it was a slow process, one piece of stone at a time. Take, for example, the famous black-and-white photograph of eleven men having lunch on a cross beam, 840 feet above the streets of New York. “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper”, captured on September 20, 1932, has become an iconic image, reflecting the legacy of hard-working, life-risking construction workers. But, clearly absent from the photo, they are women.


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Search for women in construction in 1932 and you will find little to no information. In fact, most references to women in construction do not surface until the mid-1940s, when women took the place of active servicemen in World War II. Trades historically reserved for men – shipyard, factory, assembly, riveting and welding – transferred to women. Even before that time, and since, women in construction have faced a longer and more difficult road to earning their inheritance. The new data, however, shows that women are making progress in this once male-dominated field.

Education and Mentoring for Women in Construction

A recent report published by Construction Coverage reveals that “women in the construction industry…receive higher wages than workers in other fields”. Additionally, the current median income for women working full-time in construction is $46,808 per year, compared to $43,394 for women workers in all other industries.

“I believe many women in construction hold on and go above and beyond to prove how valuable they are,” says Cassie Van Ess, Business Development, Wespac Construction Inc. “During my CRE travels, I have met so many women and it was the women who uplift other women that made this career an attractive one with so many paths in this industry.

Unlike past mentoring programs, which heavily included men, organizations such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) help adapt and encourage female-focused mentoring programs. These platforms are specifically designed to foster the career development of women, provide connections to female industry leaders, and ultimately help a new generation of women achieve their construction work goals.

“We need to continue to educate women and minorities about the different career paths within CRE,” says Molly Carson, Senior Vice President, Southwest Region Market Leader for Ryan Companies. “I grew up in the industry and still had very little idea of ​​the career opportunities in commercial real estate, it was – and still is – a career passed down largely from fathers, uncles and brothers who worked in industry.”

Family ties

Both Van Ess and Ryan were indoctrinated (quite on purpose) into the construction business through family connections.

“My great-grandfather started the company with my grandfather and great-uncle, and then my father was CEO until his death in 2009. I grew up in the company,” says Carson. “Although it surrounded me, a career in construction/real estate was never discussed or forced upon me or my siblings. Looking back, I wish I had known more about the business at an earlier age.

Van Ess adds, “I grew up with my dad who owned a medium-sized general business in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’ve seen him be a successful business owner and build relationships with everyone from clients and contractors to architects and brokers; the relational aspect and the structures he built have always fascinated me.

Now, in addition to family exposure to construction as a career, young women will have the benefit of turning to successful women in the field like Carson and Van Ess.

CTE, STEM and other construction-related programs

Many young girls and women also benefit from an early introduction to vocational and technical education (CTE) streams. For example, the West-MEC of the Valley offers an Architecture and Construction CTE program for qualified high school students, as does the East Valley Institute of Technology (EVIT) with its Construction & Technology High School program.

The emergence and rise of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs have also helped bring construction-related opportunities to even younger students – as early as elementary school. and college. On the East Coast, Rosie’s Girls (sponsored by Vermont Works for Women) offers skilled trades and STEM programs for young girls, including a three-week Build & Weld summer camp.

“I do my best as a mentor to encourage the women around me to cultivate their confidence in this still male-dominated environment,” says Carson. “As we strive to broaden awareness of CRE as a fast-moving career, it’s really exciting to see opportunities for a much wider talent pool!”

Currently, according to Construction Coverage, only 10.3% of workers in the construction industry are women. But, in what has become a protracted national shortage of skilled construction workers, now is unquestionably an opportune time for women to get into construction if they choose. According to Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA), 80% of construction companies in the United States report difficulty filling hourly positions that represent the most needed portion of the labor force in construction.

“I recruit for Wespac in the fall and spring semesters and really enjoy meeting young women who are studying construction management or construction engineering,” says Van Ess. “I hope to continue to see more women in the future applying and succeeding in all construction roles.”

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