Inside The Tampon Book. Photograph: Cedric Soltani/Studio Dropped
Paving the Runway for Women in Construction & Trades Post-Pandemic

There is no better example of a male-dominated industry than construction. As a real estate developer, construction is the industry that I deal with daily. Seeing the gender disparity first-hand on job sites constantly reminds equality still lags far in too many sectors today.

Women represent around 12% of the construction industry in Canada[1].

And women in trades? Around 4%[2].

Honestly, I can’t read another “state of the industry” report with these types of dismal statistics. We’ve got to get more women in the construction industry – and it has to be a team effort.

Where Are the Women?

Long before the pandemic, there has been a trend of women in construction either taking gender-stereotyped administrative roles, walking away from jobs, or not getting their foot in the door in the first place.

And now, the pandemic has put a giant magnifying glass on the gender differences as job losses have disproportionately affected women. Nearly half a million women remain unemployed a year into the pandemic – and almost 100,000 working-age women in Canada have left the workforce altogether this year[3].

Why?

A family obligation is a common reason cited for women leaving jobs, less so for men. Think of the pandemic’s burden on home-schooling and eldercare. Or that women often hold service or hospitality-based positions, which restrictions have hit hard.

So, when economies start bouncing back, can’t we proactively tap into the abundance of working-aged women to help fill jobs?

How Can We Welcome More Women in Construction?

When I was asked to speak at the Saskatchewan Construction Safety Association’s Leadership Conference, I was thrilled that they recognized the importance of female representation. Yes, I get to work with some amazing women in construction and trades as it is – but not enough. And companies are recognizing the talent pool that is available here.

To help re-train or re-employ women in these fields, we need to bust down the barriers that have historically affected their ability to progress. Offering childcare or flex time is just one way that companies can support working mothers. The responsibility of family has been falling on the shoulders of working moms – and the pandemic data shows us that we have thousands of potential hires we can recruit to get back to work.

Rooting out misogynistic and unprofessional culture is another. I do not tolerate harassment or intimidation on my projects – and my vendors and partners know this. People who don’t adhere to this core value can see themselves out. I use my position as a leader in the industry to demand respect for all people on my sites, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to do so. Instead, more CEOs should be using their positions of power to do the same.

Providing opportunities for up-skilling and career development are critical – regardless of whether women are working in the back office or the trades. And supporting them for workforce re-entry after having kids should be a no-brainer. I can speak from personal experience just how hard it can be to find fantastic talent – why on earth would I let someone slip through my fingers and not try to do everything I could to keep them employed? It reminds me of a recent mentorship conversation I had as part of the 2 Million Mentorship Minutes initiative. The woman I mentored is in the industry and was keen for professional development – we need more allies to bridge this for women to step into management and leadership roles instead of walking out the door.

If you’re a leader in the construction industry, I want to know what you’re doing to recruit, hire, and retain women. Drop me a line and share your perspective. Let’s pave the runway for a diverse talent pool as projects launch and as we continue to navigate the pandemic’s realities.

For women seeking resources to get started in construction and trades, check out this website with provincial organizations you can tap into.

Further Reading…

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