One of the most pressing issues in all industries today is the lack of diversity, especially gender diversity. Yet, there is no question about the benefits that having women on construction teams brings diversity and innovation to any company. Diversity breeds creativity and many industries benefit from the different perspectives that it brings to the table. One of the industries that will benefit the most from this is the construction industry.
A common stereotype about the construction industry is that it is just men with hard hats working, discussing a project plan or working with their hands in the trades. Unfortunately, this is not without a basis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 3.4% of the total of 8.3 million employees in the construction and extraction industry are women.
While the industry is indeed dominated by men, it doesn’t mean that women should be deterred from starting a career in construction. The industry can certainly benefit from new female workers, especially with the increasing labor shortage that affects many companies today. Here are some tips for women considering a career in construction.
1. Getting Well-Fitting Safety Equipment
Safety will always be the number one priority on the construction site. There are plenty of risks present that must be taken into consideration, especially by women. Most personal protective equipment (PPE) does not fit women’s physique well and may not perform their functions effectively, leading to serious health and safety risks for women in the trade.
So before anything else, make sure that your PPEs fit you properly. The safety essentials that you need to have include:
- Work boots - Ensure that your boots have safety features, including steel toes and non-slippery outsoles.
- Earplugs - Construction sites are loud and can impair your hearing abilities. Protect your ears with quality earplugs.
- Safety goggles - From dust to splinters, many things on the site can injure your eyes. Get safety goggles without any gaps to protect your eyes from all angles.
- Hard hats - It goes without saying that objects can fall from heights straight to your head. And you will want something to protect your precious noggin.
2. Be confident with your industry knowledge and skillsBecause construction is a male-dominated industry, many women feel apprehensive when giving directions or supervising their own team. When you are the only woman on the team and you have to lead, it is easy to lose confidence. But don’t. If you are asked to lead, remember that you made it this far for a reason. While changes in the cultural mindset do not happen overnight, that does not mean you should give in. You are as qualified as the men on your team so be confident in your industry knowledge and skills.
3. Don’t be afraid to speak up
Recognizing your own worth and abilities will show your peers that you are confident, and someone who can be counted on to get the job done. If you want to work on a project, speak up. Do you want to lead a team, say something. Do you need different equipment or believe it is time for a raise, talk to your supervisor or team leader.
There is never going to be a perfect time to ask and it can be super intimidating. However, building a construction career involves developing your confidence. Sticking up for yourself, especially in the male-dominated industry, demonstrates to your superiors that you know your worth, are assured of your skills and industry knowledge and are serious about your career. If you are indeed as productive as you think, then your employer will seriously consider your request.
As a woman, trying to build a career in construction can be intimidating at first. However, the industry has been changing to incorporate more gender diversity and transforming many aspects of the business to accommodate women. It is not an easy industry to go into, but if you are looking for a challenging yet rewarding career, then construction is the right one for you.
About the Author:
Aki Merced is the Content Manager at Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.
If you like this article, check out a few more tips from our very own Heather Smith in the guide below.