No matter what your political sentiments, it’s hard not to be moved by the recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Known in recent years as the “Notorious RBG”, Ginsburg exemplified a spirit of fierce determination along with undeniable smarts and uncommon perseverance. She was after all, a champion of gender equality.

Earlier this month, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) released new statistics showing that women account for close to 10 percent of the U.S. construction industry. Despite the air of machismo that is often associated with driving nails or fitting pipe, the potential for women to succeed — and excel in the construction trades — is higher than it’s ever been. While women in the workplace earn on average 81.1 percent of what men make… in the construction trades, that gap is significantly more narrow. In fact, women in the construction trades earn on average 99.1 percent of what men make, according to NAWIC. It’s important for our industry to celebrate its accomplishments and continue this positive momentum.

Building the Next Generation of Female Leaders

Many industry organizations and building product brands have instituted initiatives and programs that encourage and support women in construction. 

Following are just a few examples to recognize:

Professional Women in Building Council. The National Association of Homebuilders’ Professional Women in Building Council (PWB) is a voice for women in the building industry that is dedicated to promoting industry professionalism at the local, state and national levels. Through education, professional development and networking opportunities, PWB helps members acquire and develop leadership and business management skills that boost career success. The council also offers a number of national recognition programs, scholarships, and awards.

In fact, PWB just recently celebrated Professional Women in Building Week (Sept. 14-18) — an entire week dedicated to highlighting the achievements of diverse, talented women across residential construction.

Women Who Weld. The Detroit-based nonprofit organization Women Who Weld teaches women how to weld and find employment in the welding industry. In addition to providing year-round, week-long intensive welding courses — as well as single-day introductory courses — the organization subsidizes courses for women committed to mastering vital welding skills and forging careers in the field. It also assists in placing those women with employers once they complete training. Women currently represent only 5.3 percent of the welding workforce. And, as such, Women Who Weld is doing its part to fill some 400,000 job openings that the American Welding Association anticipates will be available by 2025.

The House That SHE Built. In Utah, builders are encouraging women to enter the construction industry with an all-female-built home. The project is a joint venture of the Utah chapter of Professional Women in Building (PWB) and the Utah Home Builders Association, and is sponsored by Oakwood Homes. One-hundred and fifty women — including three female general contractors — recently broke ground on the 3,200-square-foot, two-story home in Utah County’s Wander community.

The home, which is being celebrated as one of the first homes in the country designed and built by an all-female skilled-labor team… will be included in the Utah Valley Parade of Homes next summer.

CertainTeed. In addition to being a leader in manufacturing, CertainTeed is at the forefront in the advancement and inclusion of women at all levels of its business operations. CertainTeed was pivotal in helping recently to establish the Philadelphia chapter of National Women in Roofing (NWIR), just outside of the company’s headquarters in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

For the past two decades, the company has also championed the CertainTeed Women’s Network, which identifies and develops women for leadership roles and focuses on inclusion, diversity, and gender balance. It is one of the reasons CertainTeed’s leadership looks so different from many companies. In fact, a number of the company’s most senior roles are occupied by women. The initiative has been so successful that Saint-Gobain — CertainTeed’s parent company and one of the world’s largest multinational building conglomerates — established a worldwide Women’s Network to offer career-building resources to women across the organization.

Feeney, Inc. A leading provider of architectural products for exterior and interior applications, Feeney is one of a growing number of building product companies with women at the helm. Katrina Ralston, along with her stepmother Grissell Ralston, have been leading the company since 2007. After recognizing in the same year that competition in the cable railing market was starting to increase, Katrina — with the support of her family and fellow business owners — spearheaded Feeney’s move from a consumer-focused (B2C) model to a business-to-business (B2B) model… specifically targeting the retail channel.

It turned out to be a very smart move. The shift in distribution model launched Feeney into a much bigger industry partner. And while many companies struggled during the great recession from December 2007 to June 2009, Feeney’s business maintained its growth. Today, Feeney’s dealer network is the backbone of the organization and a key to the company’s success.

PulteGroup, Inc. One of America’s largest homebuilding companies with operations in 40 markets throughout the country, PulteGroup was recently recognized as one of the 2020 Best Workplaces for Women™ by Fortuneand Great Place to Work®. Women represent 43 percent of PulteGroup employees, and 30 percent of its leadership — from frontline supervisors to C-Level executives.

During the last two years, PulteGroup has introduced a series of interviews featuring its top-ranking female leaders called Dynamic Women in Leadership. Each installment showcases a recognized leader in the organization — ranging from division presidents to board members — providing a unique perspective on career paths, leadership, and steps for achieving success.

Opportunities on the Rise

Employment for women in construction continues to increase. According to Builder Magazine, the number of women employed in the construction industry grew substantially in 2019 compared to both 2018 and 2017, rising to around 1.2 million. While the impact of COVID-19 remains unclear, these efforts recognize that women are poised to assume more leadership roles in construction, now and into the future.

Looking to grow awareness for your brand’s products and solutions? Seeking ways to get involved in industry initiatives designed to demonstrate your commitment to opportunities and challenges? Contact Steve Kleber at sk@kleberandassociates.com.


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