Launched earlier this year, the Lean In Circle for Tradeswomen aims to help women in construction battle harassment and bias on jobsites. About 700 tradeswomen participate, sharing stories ranging from name calling to receiving pointed questions about their sexuality at work. Industry leaders hope to fight harassment in order to bolster the number of women in construction as the industry battles with labor shortages. An analysis of federal data by the Associated Builders and Contractors found that construction firms need to hire at least 430,000 new skilled workers this year to meet infrastructure spending.
Right now, only 4% of construction laborers in the United States are women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We are really only employing from half the workforce,” said Brian Turmail, the Associated General Contractors of America’s vice president of public affairs, who also spearheads workforce development. “We are struggling with labor shortages with one hand tied behind our back.”
This comes at a time when the pandemic has exacted a disproportionate toll on jobs where women dominate, like restaurant servers and cashiers. Nearly 2.5 million women lost jobs and stopped looking for work during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, much of the construction industry was deemed essential, sparing it from mass layoffs. For advocates, it is evidence that more women should aspire to construction careers, which start with paid apprenticeships and can lead to unionized jobs with middle-class wages.
The median salary for plumbers and electricians, for instance, is about $56,000 a year, with the top 10% of earners making $98,000.