I’m a guy. So what do I know about getting into construction as a woman? Well, I practically have a front-row seat. My fabulous girlfriend runs a plumbing supply warehouse. She works with contractors every day.
In addition, she’s an amazing handywoman. Electrical. Plumbing. Framing. Sheetrocking. Plastering. Painting. She does it all (although for the record, I would like it noted that she can’t match my skim-coating technique and talent).
Given her skills, one day I asked her why she thought more women aren’t in the construction business. Her response? “They should be.”
In this article, we’ll look at the reasons why, along with steps and tips you can follow — and the advantages you have — as a woman in the construction business.
Let’s get hammering!
Absolutely. With a labor shortage in the construction trades, there is greater opportunity for women. For roughly a decade, construction industry efforts have been targeted toward recruiting more women, resulting in a 50% increase of women workers.
To help boost the percentage of women in construction, more programs are in place to support women entering the construction field, and more education is in place to change workplace attitudes. It’s not perfect, but it’s trending in the right direction.
Plus, how’s this for a data point: According to this report from McKinsey & Company, businesses with gender-diverse executive teams are 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability.
It’s hard to argue with the results of this study. And money speaks. As the construction industry pores over the data, we may see a shift in women leadership in the industry.
A hot topic these days is the gender pay gap — women earning less than men for comparable work. Not so in the construction industry. It boasts one of the narrowest pay gaps.
According to the National Association of Women in Construction, women in the U.S. earn on average 81% of what men make. However, in construction, on average, women earn between 95% and 99% of what men make.
If you land a union job, even better. You’ll likely make the same amount as your male counterparts.
More and more resources are becoming available to women in construction all across the country. Many of those resources are referenced — and linked to — further on in this article if you’d like to check them out.
If you’re reading this article in October, then it’s the perfect time to celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month. What better way to do that than to follow your own dreams and pursue the construction trade you always may have thought about pursuing.
Here are some tips from a woman working in the construction industry to help you get going.
It can be hard to do something you’ve never done before. But often,the more you do something , the easier it becomes and the better you get at it.
Back to the star of this article — my girlfriend. Her main bathroom wasn’t venting properly. She told me the vent needed to be moved and a larger system installed. I asked, “Have you ever done this before?” Her response? “Never.” But she knew she was smart. She knew she was capable. And she knew she had a great assistant (me).
She confidently took the lead, ripped through the ceiling, moved the vent, rewired the new one into place, and patched everything up without a hitch.
The point is that confidence matters. If you have the skills, be confident. If you don’t, consider what skills you do need to be confident.
Without question, males dominate the construction industry. But sometimes our own biases make us believe that only men can succeed in construction. Don’t let those inaccurate assumptions hold you back or prevent you from getting started in the industry.
Be your own advocate. Don’t be afraid to confront biases head-on. Focusing on what you do well can help you make a mark for yourself in a construction trade.
Someone once said to me “Don’t be afraid to fail. And don’t ever be afraid to succeed.” I had heard the first part of this advice before but never in the context of the second part.
It’s a good lesson for all of us. Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses. And don’t be afraid to confront both. You will not grow in your career if you’re not challenged. So challenge yourself to recognize your skills and work on your shortfalls, so that when doors open, you’ll be prepared to walk through them with confidence.
This gets back to building confidence. I had a teacher who said, “everyone has to learn everything at least once.” Having questions about how to do something is natural.
Asking other tradesmen (and tradeswomen) questions is not just a good way to gain some knowledge, It also can be a good way to build relationships. Many of us like to talk about ourselves.
There’s even research that shows our brains respond positively when we do. So asking a plumber or electrician a question about their job could be something they’d enjoy.
Construction can be a tough industry to get started in regardless of your gender. Find a mentor — man or woman — who can help. Apprenticeship is a popular way for many people to get into the construction trades. As a result, you may find that mentoring, teaching, and passing on knowledge is part of the culture.
Whether you’re looking to become a carpenter, an electrician, or to pursue some other construction trade, there’s a good chance you’ll need to understand a bit about insurance.
Like a good tool, business insurance can come in handy in a number of ways. Here are a few:
It doesn’t matter if you think you need it, your state may mandate it. In many cases, if you want to be licensed as a contractor, you may need to show proof of insurance coverage.
Let’s say you’re a general contractor working on a home renovation project. If you don’t have insurance, you’re at risk to foot the bill for property damage claims that could sink your business and devastate your finances.
For example, if you get sued for accidentally causing damage to your customer’s home during the renovation, you may have to pay for legal fees and damages out of your own pocket if you’re not properly insured. Not exactly the peace of mind you need when running a business.
It doesn’t matter what trade you’re in — electrical, plumbing, carpentry, sheet metal fabrication, masonry — many customers won’t work with you if you’re not licensed or insured.
In fact, there’s a lot of advice out there warning people to work only with insured contractors. So if you want to grow your customer base, you should strongly consider getting insurance.
Of course, insurance is probably the last thing you’re thinking about when running a business. That’s OK. At Simply Business, we get it. That’s why we’re here to help. We do this by taking the time to understand your business. Then we work with leading insurers to offer policies tailored to your specific risks.
Best of all? We make it easy to get insured. Because let’s face it, being a woman in a male-dominated industry is already hard enough. Check out our handy online tool and get free insurance quotes in just minutes.
Or if you want to talk to a helpful human (one of our licensed insurance agents), you can give us a call at 844-654-7272. We’re here Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ET).
As you think about the overall benefits of insurance, consider the different coverages available to you. Here are some that we recommend for construction pros:
The steps for women trying to make their way into the construction industry are often the same as for men. Completing a trade school program, getting your college degree, or obtaining an apprenticeship are all ways to increase your chances of success.
However, here are some specific women in construction organizations geared toward helping women get a start:
The National Association of Women in Construction provides mentorship, marketing, and networking opportunities to help women who are new to the industry.
The organization has over 100 chapters across the country. Joining allows you to be part of a network of like-minded women facing the challenges and opportunities of a career in the construction industry.
It also connects you to annual conferences, seminars, and workshops.
If carpentry interests you, you may want to check out the B.O.O.T.S program. It stands for “Bridging Outstanding Opportunities with Tradeswomen Skills.” It’s a four-week pre-apprenticeship program designed to help women get the hands-on training needed to succeed in the carpentry trades.
Live near New York City? Check out NEW (Nontraditional Employment for Women). Its training programs can prepare you to compete for blue-collar careers. They offer daytime and evening classes.
Both are available for women in skilled trades. Below are some resources that can help you find them:
Larger construction companies often partner with the local community to offer courses and boot camp programs for women interested in construction. Check out these top construction companies across the country and cross-check with your local government to see if these opportunities exist for you.
In addition to these resources, you also may want to check out other helpful guides and tips we’ve written for those in the construction business, including:
There may be no better time than now to get into construction. There’s a shortage of skilled workers, and the gender pay gap is less in construction than other industries. That all bodes well for you.
Plus, more and more resources are becoming available to help women get started in the construction trades. Take advantage of the opportunities!
It all adds up to an abundance of opportunity awaiting women in the construction business. Just ask my girlfriend. She thrives in it. You can too. Go get ’em.
I went to college to be an accountant and graduated with a degree in creative writing. Words won out over numbers, but barely. All credit goes to my parents. Had they talked about anything other than banking at the dinner table growing up—and had they never bribed me with Pop-Tarts to read books, play with my Matchbox cars and quietly exercise my imagination—who knows where my left and right brain would be today.
Chris writes on a number of topics such as legal resources, small business taxes, and social media marketing.
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