Construction and Diversity: Are You Being Left Behind?

Female construction worker smiling

A recent Washington Post article revealed the dire straits of the construction industry: Baby Boomers are retiring in droves, widening what is an already huge skills gap in a competitive industry. The article advocates for diversity as a way to broaden the workforce and ensure that everyone who can work, is. More specifically, the article talks about the role women can play in filling this skills gap. Currently, women make up just 9% of all construction industry workers. There are even less serving as construction managers — only 7% of management teams are female.

As construction managers you see your aging workforce first hand. Unless you are proactively taking measures as an employer or as an industry to counter these retirement departures, you may get left behind. Diversity is an answer to the skills gap, and will create an applicant pool with varied talents and backgrounds. Here’s how to encourage diversity in your construction business.

A Female-Friendly Construction Workplace

A diverse workforce has diverse needs. Before expanding your recruitment efforts to target these candidates, ask yourself: what can we change to make sure applicants are attracted to and retained within our company?

One group that has modernized their HR approach is the Iron Workers union. The Iron Workers are the first building trades union to introduce a paid maternity leave benefit of between six and eight months. Iron Workers specifically named the need for greater industry diversity the reason for the benefit, and says it is just the first step in making progress with its gender diversity strategies.

This is a positive move, but it is really just the start. Consider this change within your workplace, or advocate for it within your union. Then, ask the women on your team what they need. If your company is consistent with industry averages, there will be female colleagues whom you can speak with to get a sense of what benefits would improve their professional experience — be it more flexible work shifts, daycare benefits, or something else all together. Equal work for equal pay is a good place to start. At 91%, the construction industry is already doing better than most other industries which pay women 83% the amount as men. More oversight to ensure that nearly 9 out of 10 women in construction aren’t sexually harassed on the job will also help.

Construction industry officials should take measures to encourage diversity before the recruitment and hiring process even begins. Managers who champion diversity are not just interested in the impact more female workers will have on their company alone — they also understand why a more diverse workforce is important to sustain the industry over time. Company support for female-specific scholarships, demo days for girls, and talks to high school students are all ways to support younger girls who may be interested in construction jobs but cannot currently see themselves reflected in the industry.

Finally, make sure the language you use in job ads is inclusive. You would be surprised how job titles and descriptions can impact the quality and diversity of candidates who apply.

How HR Tools Can Help

You don’t have to diversify your candidate pool alone — HR solutions can help. Recruitment and Applicant Tracking Software, for example, will broaden the existing places you search for candidates by posting on diverse job boards. The right solution will also allow for the easy sharing of job ads on social media, a place where the number of female users outranks that of men. Once sharing on social media, job ads can also be hyper-targeted to reach diverse target groups, like those with certain interests, or females between the ages of 18 and 35.

Once you have recruited and hired from your diverse applicant pool, it’s time to onboard. This is one of the first opportunities to show your new hires that you care about their personal and professional needs and goals. Use an onboarding solution to minimize the hours spent on paperwork and maximize the time spent introducing a new hire to your inclusive corporate culture, their professional development opportunities, and other custom onboarding that may resonate with them.

Finally, provide professional growth opportunities through a learning management system. A Learning Management System (LMS) can help improve workplace productivity and improve retention rates for both genders. These can be general industry skills training opportunities or gender awareness training for men and women. Whatever that training is, an LMS will help you stay organized.

Don’t be left behind — start improving diversity in your workplace today.