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Women in construction share their experiences in new report

Photo: Missouri Department of Transportation Flickr

Alachua, FL — The construction industry must “change the culture and perception of our industry” to recruit and retain women, concludes a new white paper.

That includes addressing discrimination and sexual harassment, ensuring consistent hiring practices, and accommodating working mothers, according to the National Center for Construction Education and Research’s report – released March 6.

NCCER conducted focus groups with 176 tradeswomen from across the country and analyzed survey responses from 770 women in construction. The women shared the unique obstacles they face and offered advice on improving the experience for women in the profession.

When asked if they agree or disagree with the statement, “At the place I work, I am treated with respect,” 20% of the survey respondents disagreed. More than a third (35%) said they’ve been put down or addressed in unprofessional terms – either publicly or in private.

Other findings:

  • Nearly half (46%) of the women said they’d been the target of derogatory comments or jokes on the job.
  • Among mothers, 25% said they’d faced disciplinary action for missing work to attend family emergencies; only 4% of the women in managerial, administration and technical positions were disciplined for similar reasons.

According to the focus groups, knowing someone at their company was critical to them getting hired. However, the report points out, because women are underrepresented in the industry, they’re less likely to have connections to open doors to those jobs. “This type of hiring practice is not only restrictive, but seems to support the stereotype that our industry is trying to overcome.”

Despite these barriers and others – including improved jobsite experience, more women in site leadership and offering more training opportunities – NCCER says women are more focused on team performance rather than individual achievements, and the construction industry “must recognize that we are not effectively appealing to the largest percentage of the population, and this is negatively impacting our project outcomes.”

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