Women in Construction (WIC) Week Highlights Role of Women in Construction Industry
As the industry labor shortage continues to drag on, many are looking to historically underused populations, like women and minorities, to fill critical jobs. Since 2016 there has been a surge of women working in the construction industry. They are now 14% of the construction labor force. The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) has been celebrating Women in Construction (WIC) Week for the past 25 years in an attempt to highlight women’s accomplishments and recruit more workers to the industry.
You would think that in today’s world, with all the emphasis on inclusion and equity, that the industry would be more welcoming to women. But, unfortunately, they are often forced to battle outdated stigmas and preconceived notions about what type of work women can do and are best suited for. And on the job site they often have to deal with harassment and even violence against them.
In a now infamous incident in 2017, a female apprentice ironworker was beaten to death on a jobsite by her male supervisor, as workers looked on. This sparked a movement in the ironworkers union to “Be That One Guy” which trains workers to say something to stop harassment of any kind.
Besides reducing harassment, companies can do the following to attract women:
- Focus recruiting efforts on young people to show them that construction careers offer living wages, often without the crushing student loan debt. Target girls through STEM programs and vocational education as early as possible.
- Provide the technology, tools, and properly fitted PPE to accommodate women. Their smaller physical size means that tools and clothing designed for men often don’t fit properly. Ill-fitting PPE and clothing can pose a threat to a worker’s safety if it prevents them from doing the job correctly or interferes with the work.
- Create or join professional organizations that cater to women in the industry. NAWIC and Women in the Trades are great places to start. Check for local groups, or start your own if there are none in your area.
WIC Week is celebrated the first full week of March each year. To get involved, find a NAWIC chapter near you.