It’s time to stop thinking about women in construction as a novelty. Perhaps it’s time to think of it as the most forward-thinking of professions.
This week marks Women in Construction Week, and women have made real progress in the field. The City of Lima offered a proclamation celebrating the week at Mayor David Berger’s weekly press conference Wednesday.
“One of the great things that I like to tell people is that women are making 96 cents to the dollar of every many in construction, which is the highest of any other industry,” said Anne Pfleger, the national president of the National Association of Women in Construction. “We are showing that women are very important.”
Indeed, a look at the median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the smallest gap between women’s and men’s earning in construction. The biggest gap — at 61.5 cents for a woman for each dollar a man makes — is recorded in finance and insurance.
The average female construction worker in the United States made $862 per week in 2018, compared to $870 per week for men, according to BLS. There’s still a divide in how many employees there are, though, with nearly 10 times more men than women working in the industry, with 740,000 women and 7.261 million men working in construction, including the trades, general contractors, project engineers and architects.
Pfleger said construction companies have learned women can be valuable assets since they’re generally good with time management and nurturing new employees to succeed. They also offer a different point of view that “maybe the men don’t see.”
There’s obviously still room for growth, said Pfleger, who began working in construction in 2006 and now works for Charles Construction, out of Findlay. She was installed as national president of NAWC last August.
“Just since I was installed, we have 18 new active partnerships going on with different associations in the organization. They were hearing that the construction industry wants our input because they see we have a lot to bring to the table. It’s amazing how even the men are also like, ‘We want to support you; what can we do?’”
What they can do next is probably the biggest challenge for women in construction. Pfleger said men in construction are simply uninformed sometimes about women’s needs. She noted the personal protective equipment is still lagging behind since “women are built differently than men,” meaning there’s still work to be done on vests and boots.
“It’s not that the men are not wanting to do this or are making it difficult,” she said. “They’re just saying, ‘We just don’t know.’ That’s why we just need to be having a conversation about it, so we can tell them that is what we need to be better employees for their companies and more valuable to the industry.”
There are also sanitary needs for women on the job site, along with a push to allow more remote working and leave time when women have children.
“Companies are really working with us and want to provide leave,” Pfleger said. “If women want to have children, they can have children and still work, as long as they can. That’s great news.”
They’re also seeing more of an openness in guidance counselors to recommend construction to young women, especially with more technology used in construction, such as drones and real-time cameras.
“You can have a very good career as a woman in construction,” Pfleger said. “It’s great for single women as well. They’re making almost as much as what men are making. You can really support a family in this industry.”