With Gender Equality being the most talked about topic of the decade, the percentage of working women across the Globe have drastically increased. One noteworthy example is that of Canadian working women, the percentage of whom increased from 21% in 1950 to 82% in 2015. While women continue to dominate the major industries across the world, the date on the women in the Construction Industry insinuates a completely different story.
With the employment of women in construction being already extremely low, their involvement in the Construction trades such as the tile setters, cabinet makers, insulators, etc. showcases an even major setback. The Canadian Construction women, for example, constituted a total of 12.6% of the Construction Industry workforce in 2006, but their employment rate in the Construction Trades was just a mere 4%.
Although a slight increase was seen between the years of 2001 and 2006 in the women’s involvement in some trades such as painters, decorators, floor covering installers, etc., the representation of women in many of the other trades was still less than 2%.
Now the major question that arises is “What are the reasons behind such low involvement of Women in the Construction Industry?”
Interest in the Construction Career and Career Choices
When the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum surveyed the female apprentices, they found that the expectations of steady work and good pay, interest in the trade, the need for the job, and a desire to start their own business were the main reasons behind them entering into an apprenticeship.
Salary is one of the most important factors behind a women’s career decision but the Women in Construction survey conducted in 2008 deduced that only a quarter of women believed that Construction Women earned good salaries, 20% disagreed with it, and 55% revealed that they didn’t know about it.
Another survey revealed that half of the young women never received any information about a possible career in construction trades or management.
Career and Educational Pathways:
It is believed that an effective educational and career pathway can boost the participation of women in the construction field since the low levels of youth interest in the construction trades highlight the major problem the construction industry faces. For many apprentices, the high school co-op, work experience, and high school trade courses highly influence their career choices and the closing of the high school shops in many Canadian provinces further worsened the issue. This finding revealed that the high school trades apprenticeship program is the feeder programs to the trades and therefore must be built and strengthened.
Many studies have revealed that the very educational pathways that are supposed to expose girls to the opportunities in science, trade, and technology tend to steer them away from it. Further studies revealed that the high school teachers and Career Counsellors tend to reproduce gender stereotypes by steering away female students towards university rather than any other form of education. This is due to the fact that these teachers and counselors are generally biased towards this recommendation, having acquired a university education themselves. For many young men and women, the trades apprenticeship is a second or third career choice after trying to acquire higher education or work.
Measure to increase the Women’s Employment in the Construction:
The 4 major barriers restricting women’s access to an Industry Career are recruitment, training and education, workplace, and hiring or employment. Interviews and surveys revealed that according to the employers, the main factor behind the less involvement of women in the Construction Industry is not the need to make the workplace more welcoming for women but the supply and that the gender stereotypes are the reason why women don’t seem to find Construction Industry, a suitable career path for themselves. So, by improving the image of the Construction Industry the women’s participation can be boosted.
Exposing the women to Construction Workplaces before they start their career training by increasing the number of pre-apprenticeship programs that will prepare them to enter the trades and provide work hardening experiences is believed to fully equip women to find success in a gender-segregated Construction Industry.
There are many programs in practice that are working tirelessly to increase the percentage of women in the Construction Industry. For example, the Industry Representatives and employers actively give presentations in high schools, trades fairs, and colleges with a goal to promote careers in Construction. They also provide scholarships for women that are pursuing a career in construction. There are programs that are funding women’s preparation in skilled trades.
Second major reason behind the lack of women in the Construction Industry is the lack of demand. While many employers believe that a recruitment strategy is needed, other argue that recruiting women to construction industry is not their job. Construction Owners suggested that greater financial incentives or introduction of quotas in bidding and contract requirements will solve the issue, but the abuse of incentives imposed a bigger threat, so this suggestion was disregarded.
The third major reason behind the smaller percentage of women in the Construction industry in the problem of retention. The retention of women once hired is as major an issue as hiring. Many women leave the trades industry in less than 5 years or once they start a family because of the inflexible work policies that make it difficult for them to fulfill their parental responsibilities.
Steps that can improve the women involved in the trade industry includes an improvement of the workplace safety conditions, family-friendly policies, stronger leadership, improvement of the HR practices, training of all employees in accordance with the new policies and constant monitoring to ensure that these policies are making a positive difference.
After centuries of being excluded from the workforce, this decade is finally giving women the opportunity to push for inclusivity or complete gender equality. While women compromise a significant segment of the workforce, there is no reason as to why only the Construction Industry should be deprived of the skills and the talent that a woman brings to the workplace. We at Paramount Estimation support the women fighting for equality and believe that in such modern times, gender stereotypes should not hold women back from the trades industry which is largely considered as a male dominating field and by improving the image of the industry and the workplace conditions we can finally open the gateway for women into this gender-segregated industry.