Since 1995, March has been dubbed “Women’s History Month.” Each year the many accomplishments made by women are highlighted and celebrated. Women continue to break through glass ceilings, as better career opportunities are increasingly available – allowing more women to be recognized for their efforts. The week of March 7-11, 2021 marks Women in Construction Week. It signifies a time to honor the women working in the industry while helping to bring awareness to often little known job opportunities for women in construction.
The number of women entering traditionally male-dominated industries, such as the building trades, has increased in recent years. Currently, women make up 10 percent of the construction industry. However, a majority of the 1.1 million women working in the construction field in the U.S. hold an office or administrative position. With more women than ever entering STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and math) professions, the number of women working within the field is expected to rise both in and out of office settings. Fortunately, for women working in the building trades, the gender pay gap is virtually nonexistent, as women in the industry earn 99.1% of what men earn.
The building trades offer a multitude of career paths that provide the option of working on the jobsite or in an office environment. This flexibility has been an attractive selling point for women entering the industry in recent years. Also, many jobs are available throughout the trade. Says Annabel Le Lohe, a senior planner for housebuilder Storey Homes, “My advice to women who are interested in the industry would be that there are so many different areas that contribute towards a project – from conception to delivery, including site management, planning, technical, and community engagement. And there is a tangible sense of accomplishment when you look at something and realize you were integral to its creation.”
The building trades have been suffering from a skilled labor shortage since the Great Recession in 2008 and women’s growing influence in the industry has addressed both the lack of diversity and scarcity of qualified workers. Notes Mary Patricia Geppert, president of Geppert Bros Inc., “Expect that you will have to prove yourself. Understand that you may have to interact with some individuals who still aren’t used to seeing or working with women in the industry. Don’t be afraid to show them that you know what you’re talking about. In time, you’ll begin to change their perspective on the matter and will garner a different respect from them.”
And women enjoy the many challenges that come along with construction jobs along with the opportunity to share ideas and solutions. According to Carla Gallardo, a project manager for McCarthy Building Cos., “Every day in construction is different. You may come in with a plan but there will be new surprises and challenges every day – as well as different ways to tackle them. Throughout my career I’ve recognized that woman do provide a different perspective and thought process when tackling challenges at a jobsite. The diversity of thought I bring to the table has helped me immensely.”
In recognition of Women in Construction Week, we wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the top positions available for women in the building and construction industry.
Product managers play a critical role in the building trades. This is a great position for women who enjoy a variety of tasks. Responsibilities typically include working with sales teams to develop strategy, pricing, and profit margins. Product managers also help to determine which product is appropriate for various market segments. Additionally, the role encompasses a number of marketing functions, which may include research, branding, competitive analysis, and planning.
Ultimately, the product manager serves as the go-between who connects the departments within a company when it comes to anything related to its product offering. A four-year degree or equivalent industry experience is typically needed to qualify for a product management job. In many cases, the position may require regular attendance at trade shows and travel to customer and distributor sites.
Solar Photovoltaic Installation
Women who enjoy working outside should consider becoming solar installers. This position is experiencing immense growth due to the increased desire to move away from fossil fuels. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that jobs in this area will increase 51 percent by 2029. Educational requirements include a high school diploma and certification courses administered by a technical school or community college. However, many companies offer on-the-job training that will allow individuals to bypass school courses.
Solar energy is becoming more widely used. In fact, the first quarter of 2020 accounted for the highest number of solar panel installations to date. Solar is slated to grow at a rate of 17.32 percent by 2025, and solar installers are expected to be in high demand in the coming years.
All construction businesses need quality salespeople. A mixture of innate talent, combined with practical training, makes sales personnel valuable assets to a building firm. Success in sales is largely dependent upon having an empathetic personality and being able to accurately read others – which enables the salesperson to understand and anticipate customer needs. Generally, a high school diploma or GED is required to join a sales team. Of course, it’s important to have a good understanding of the construction and building industry, but this knowledge can be attained with training.
Career options in sales are plentiful, allowing employees to work for a local or regional company… or expand into the corporate world by performing sales for a manufacturer. Employment with a manufacturer can eventually lead to roles such as regional or territory sales manager, as well as C-level positions.
Construction firms and building product manufacturers alike employ marketing professionals to increase brand exposure and assist in product sales. Marketing is a necessary component of any business. Marketers create brand-related content, build and maintain brand presence in the market, execute and monitor various advertising and marketing initiatives, and act as a media liaison.
Marketing professionals working in the building trades must be knowledgeable about the various building products and services offered. Many jobs in marketing require a bachelor’s degree, but educational requirements can vary by employer. As with product management positions, marketers may be expected to attend trade shows and visit customer and distributor sites. It’s also advantageous for marketing professionals to do ride-alongs with sales reps to better understand customer (and salesperson) needs.
Plant Operations Management
There are many opportunities within the building and construction trades to work in plant operations. Plant operations managers work with design teams to turn product concepts into reality. The operations manager oversees every aspect of the manufacturing process, including planning, production, and quality control… and will strive to produce the product in the most efficient manner possible.
Once production has begun, the operations manager will finetune the process, as necessary. Typically, a four-year degree or equivalent experience, along with supervisory experience, is necessary to secure a position as a plant operations manager.
Customer Service Specialist
Excellent customer service is an essential element for businesses of any size. Customer service personnel generally assist with daily scheduling, manage incoming phone calls and requests, and process orders. When working for manufacturers, customer service employees support customers with product and warranty information requests and assist them in finding local contractors.
This type of position is ideally-suited for an outgoing “people person” and requires patience, the ability to listen carefully and strong conflict resolution skills. Most employers only require a high school diploma or a GED for this type of position.
Architects play an important role in the building and construction trades. They develop and design structures using drawings, specifications, and other construction-related documents. Architects lead construction projects from early concept stages to design development. They document the progress of building plans, adjusting the design as needed.
Additionally, architects must have extensive knowledge of building codes. The profession requires its employees to have a bachelor’s degree, a Master of Architecture, complete three years of paid training, and pass the Architect Registration Examination.
An ever increasing number of roles are available for women to choose from when considering employment in the building trades. Whether desiring to work on the jobsite or in an office environment, the construction industry offers women a multitude of challenging – and fulfilling – career options. Says Melonae Thomas, senior project manager at Lendlease, “I am hopeful that the more we talk about the work we do – as women within the industry – the more other women will be inspired to take on roles. The industry is so varied and offers such a wide selection of careers that there really is something for everyone.
Want to learn more about women’s growing influence in the building and construction trades? Check out the recent article written by Steve Kleber.