“The U.S. economy is at a critical juncture. We need to re-shore manufacturing, decarbonize energy, and upgrade our infrastructure,” said Boyd Worsham, CEO of NCCER. “As we continue to struggle in building a workforce to fulfill these needs, we must recognize that we are not effectively appealing to the largest percentage of the population — women — in our recruiting and retention efforts.”

NCCER’s goal was to go beyond the numbers and statistics that are typically presented in research about women in construction. The white paper highlights the unique benefits women bring to the construction workforce, the obstacles they encounter getting in and staying in the industry, and their advice on what contractors can do to recruit and retain more women.

“Regarding women simply as a way to make up for the quantity gap in the construction workforce ignores the unique qualities they bring to the jobsite,” said Dr. Tim Taylor, director of research for NCCER.

Women also shared their recommendations on how to better recruit and retain women on project sites and, ultimately, in the industry. They provided guidance on how to tackle obstacles that the industry has worked on for years and brought up other hurdles that may be surprising for some. Overall, their suggestions were thoughtful and based on their lived experience in the field.

Both the women themselves and the management teams that were involved in separate focus groups agreed on the unique qualities women bring to jobsites that improve project outcomes. One of these qualities is their focus on following the prescribed work process as designed instead of relying on physical strength and experience.

“Women are role model workers. They want to work safely. They follow process and procedure. Generally, I find that [women adhere] better to compliance and HSE process and procedures.”

The focus groups provided various recommendations on how to better recruit and retain women for craft professional positions that ranged from addressing harassment and discrimination to accommodations for working mothers.

The survey of 770 women in construction found that 25 percent of tradeswomen reported facing disciplinary action for missing work to tend to family emergencies. Whereas only four percent of women in managerial, administrative, and technical positions reported being disciplined for missing work for similar reasons.

The white paper is designed to inform and provide steps that can be taken by construction leaders to start making changes today that will improve project outcomes for tomorrow.

“With an expected shortage of 1.9 million craft professionals through 2025, there is tremendous opportunity for women to get involved in an industry that offers competitive wages, benefits, and career growth,” said Jennifer Wilkerson, NCCER vice president of innovation and advancement. “If we want construction careers to be a viable option for all people, we have to change the culture and perception of our industry, starting with our own projects.”