Despite the fact that women are the absolute best candidates for many careers in construction, the perception remains that it’s a “man’s world” and that’s all there is to it in the industry. Though women lag behind the men in jobs actually held, leaders in the industry are working overtime to try to get more women involved and dispel the myths that prevent many of them from applying for positions in the first place.
Now the Tampa Bay Times, the winner of multiple Pulitzer Prizes, reports that the pay gap for women in the construction industry is much smaller than in other kinds of businesses:
Women in the U.S. earn on average 82.1 percent of what men make. In construction, women earn 93.4 percent of what men make, Labor Statistics data shows.
That data point comes in this great story about women in Florida who have been training in construction, including Blanca Claudillo:
Caudillo recently separated from her husband. On a desperate quest to find a job, she found the Women Building Futures program, a free 10-week training course hosted by the center in Hillsborough County that teaches women the skills to work in construction. She is one of 40 women who make up the program's inaugural class, which began last month.
"Right after my husband left, everything started falling apart. My a/c broke, my car started breaking down," said Caudillo, who lives in Plant City. It's tough to afford these costly repairs. "I need to learn to do these things for myself."
The construction classes aren't easy, Caudillo said, but she's learning. On Tuesday night, she spent three hours building the wood frame of a wall. She had to calculate and measure the proper distances to include a window and a door. The week before, she learned how to hang dry wall.
Construction workers are still in fierce demand, even though employment numbers in the field climbed in July to their highest level since February 2009, according to data from the Associated General Contractors of America.
"The sector's job gains in the past five months have been intermittent and relatively sluggish, despite signs of accelerating demand for construction," Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist, said in a statement. "The latest Census Bureau data show the amount of construction spending is rising at the fastest rate since 2006, and there are several indicators — such as the steady increase in hiring of architects and engineers — that suggest demand for construction will remain strong, but contractors may have difficulty finding enough workers to take on all those projects."
When women get into construction, the sky is the limit:
"Most of the women I know who work in construction are in ownership positions. They started out in the field working as a plumber's or contractor's helper, went to school to get their license and built their own companies," said Debra Palmer, the projects services director with Construction Moisture Consulting in Tampa. "There's great potential for women in this industry. Once you've got the skill, the trajectory for increasing your pay is quick. It can double in just a few years."
If you’re interested in learning more about careers in construction, check out Construction Citizen’s Craft Careers section.