There’s no denying that the role of women has changed in the workplace. This is true in most industries as women continue to evolve their careers and become driving forces of success. One industry that has seen some significant, albeit gradual, changes with respect to women in the construction industry. More and more women are finding job satisfaction both behind the scenes in the building business as well as on the job site.
For many women, the construction industry offers an exciting opportunity to be a part of a growing, thriving trade with the ability to impact the future and pave the way for women professionals today and for generations to come. The potential career advancement, diversity of projects and colleagues, are part of the industry’s allure and job variability like positions in project management, operations and business development are all key reasons why women are flocking to the industry. There are also many benefits to working in a predominately male environment for women who have a strong, driven style.
Think Women in Construction is a New Thing? Think Again!
The Canadian Organization for Women in Construction (CAWIC) was developed in 1982 to help facilitate the success of women in the Canadian construction industry. CAWIC is a not-for-profit Canadian organization whose membership includes women employed in construction and related fields in Canada. The organization prides itself on leadership, and mentorship, dedicated to the success of women in the construction industry.
There are also many other organizations, and women, who are serving the industry and helping women make their mark. Krysten Fleischhacker at People 2 Work in Toronto has over 10 years of construction recruitment experience in the ICI, Residential and Civil construction industries across Canada. People 2 Work is a recruitment firm working strictly in the construction market who partner with reputable organizations across Canada in search of the most talented people in the industry. Contractor Advantage had the pleasure of speaking with her recently where she shared some of her insights on how the landscape has changed.
How has the role of women changed in the industry?
Women are no longer strictly in support roles in the construction industry. They are leading teams in Project Management, Project Controls and Estimating. While we aren’t seeing as much representation in the skilled trades, we are seeing more and more women on site from site co-ordinator to health and safety and supervisory roles.
Women have come a long way in the past decades and that is very apparent when speaking with the pioneers who broke down barriers 20+ years ago to set the stage for the new generations coming into construction. As the older generation starts to retire, more and more opportunities are opening up for women to climb the ladder.
Do you see more prevalence of women on the jobsite as skilled trades?
This is one area where women are still far behind their male counterparts which is quite apparent when looking at ratio of women to men in skilled trades apprenticeships In 2013, only 14% registered were women.
This can be seen in our own day to day business. Hired-Resources, our sister company that specializes in labour leas-ing skilled trades to general contractors in US and Canada, is a prime example. Out of the hundreds of short term skilled labourers we work with, only a few are women.
What is the ratio of women applying to postings?
This depends largely on the position we are recruiting for. We see a lot more women that are in Project Co-ordinator and Project Management roles where I would estimate that 20-25% of my candidates are women.
For senior site roles like site superintendent, general superintendent or construction manager, the number looks like 1-2%.
What types of positions do these include?
Women are applying to Project Co-ordinator, Project Administrator, Project Manager, Project Controller and Health and Safety roles. We are also seeing more women in management positions on the owners’ side, or working for large commercial real estate firms (GWL, Oxford, Brookfield etc.)
On site, women working as assistant or finishing superintendents on large residential projects across the city. My hope is to see more women on site as the site superintendent or general superintendent.
What is the overall feeling of acceptance in this forum amongst women?
As a member of the Canadian Association of Women in Construction, this is a topic that regularly comes up in our meetings and events. We are still the minority in the industry, but times are changing and more and more women are entering the field. While stereo-types about women still present a challenge, this can be attributed to the older generation and their more traditional view of what women are capable of on the job site. The Gen Xers and Millennials are much more accepting of women in construction and as the boomers retire, those stigmas should play less of a role in how women are accepted in the industry.
Job satisfaction? Advancement?
The women I know in the business absolutely love it and are passionate about building great things and it shows in their work ethic and ability to push the project forward. Unfortunately I still hear stories of more qualified women being passed over for promotion for their less experienced male counterparts. It is certainly shortsighted as great talent has been lost to competitors because of these attitudes.
I work with mid-large general contractors, condo developers, major trades and civil contractors and I typically deal with Principal or Vice President level executives. Only one client contact is a woman. In fact, I can count on one hand how many women I know of that make it to the executive suite in a construction capacity.
There are female executives at these construction companies but they are in finance, HR, Marketing etc. Once we see more women at the executive level, I am sure more and more doors and avenues will available to women and hopefully offer equal opportunity for advancement.
Are there any emerging trends with regards to women in construction?
I see a push to get women interested in the skilled trades as we know that there is going to be a real shortage of qualified workers as boomers retire and groups like Canadian Association of Women in Construction, one of several groups supporting women in construction are working towards improving opportunities available to women.
In fact, CAWIC has launched an exciting project – CAWIC Level Best which is a research and action project designed to improve women’s advancement into leadership roles in the Canadian construction industry.