Happy 25th Anniversary to Women in Construction Week, CSPP! Women in Construction Week is a time when we highlight the accomplishments of women in the field, share strategies to overcome the numerous barriers women face in the industry, and provide women with more access to the construction industry.
I wanted to do a quick blog reflecting on the challenges and opportunities women face in the construction industry.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women comprise only about 10.9% of the construction workforce. A University of Oregon study of union apprenticeship programs found that 7.5% of apprentices are white women, and 2.5% are women of color.
The under-representation of women in the trades contributes to the challenges women face within construction. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, over 26% of tradeswomen report workplace harassment due to their gender. Harassment and bullying create a toxic work environment, hinder diversity, and undermine mental and physical well-being.
Currently, most construction suicide prevention efforts focus on men because research shows that men working in construction have the second highest rate of suicide. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that women working in the construction industry have the highest suicide rate.
We also have to contextualize the difference between men and women regarding suicide. In the United States, women attempt suicide at a rate 1.5X times higher than men but are more likely to survive their attempt. In addition, people who identify as trans, nonbinary, or otherwise not cis-gendered attempt suicide at high rates.
Ensuring that construction suicide prevention efforts are inclusive and address the unique challenges women face is vital to improving and diversifying job site culture. We know mental well-being is an essential component to enhancing job site safety and growing the construction workforce.
Despite the challenges, the construction industry offers women high-paying careers that enable them to build better lives for themselves and their families. While Women in the U.S. earn on average 82.9 percent of what men make, the gender pay gap is much smaller in construction occupations, with women earning, on average, 95.5 percent of what men make.
In our region, groups like Oregon Tradeswomen and Women In Safety and Excellence (WISE), advocate for gender-specific solutions to improve workplace culture to improve and equalize pay. In April, I will be presenting WISE’s annual symposium.
As the new Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, I am excited to connect with working with women from every level of the construction industry ranging from the trades, HR, safety, insurance, research, and beyond. At every level, women contribute to our mission of reducing suicide and promoting well-being for the construction community.
Please take a moment to appreciate the women construction professionals in your life! Have a happy Women in Construction Week!