Hiring and retaining employees is a significant challenge for most companies today and the construction industry is one sector that’s facing increasing challenges. According to the Associate Builders and Contractors trade association the U.S. construction industry needs to attract and hire approximately 500,000 new employees in 2024 to meet demand. We see an aging workforce coupled with Gen Z entering the market, seeking jobs that are less physically demanding and offer more remote work schedules. This combination only adds to the labor shortage issues companies are trying to navigate. Fortunately, construction companies have an opportunity to attract, hire and retain new employees by simply expanding their outreach effort to hire more women in construction.

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Female Appeal

It may not be a surprise to learn that men make up a majority and women represent only about 11 percent of employees in the construction industry. What may be more surprising is that Sun State Builders, a design-build general contractor that’s been operating in Arizona for more than 50 years is significantly beating this trend with female employees filling positions for approximately 50 percent of the company’s workforce. Moreover, women at Sun State Builders can be found in departments throughout the company, including on job sites in the field. Sun State Builders recognizes the opportunity of appealing to women to fill key positions and looks beyond gender for finding and hiring the best person for the job.

To better understand how construction companies can tap into 51 percent of adults in the U.S. to fill open positions, let’s examine steps to consider and the benefits for doing so.

Cultivate Supportive Corporate Culture

Andrea Piering is a 25-year veteran in the construction industry and the co-owner and president of Sun State Builders.

Creating a corporate culture that is welcoming and supportive of all employees – both men and women – is an important first step. Change begins with adopting company policies and practices employees not only value, they help them feel valued. To attract more women, companies must consider incorporating programs and benefits that are effective for attracting quality female candidates and retaining current female employees. Here are a few practices Sun State Builders has put in place that are making a difference:

  • Promote employees from within

Invest time and resources to train and promote employees to fill open positions whenever possible. It reduces the need to spend time looking outside the company and it offers opportunities for advancement and growth to existing employees, which also reduces turnover and boosts employee retention.

  • Offer flexible work schedules

Adopting a work-hour policy that incorporates flexibility is highly appealing to mothers and fathers juggling the demands of work and family. Consider giving employees the ability to fulfill work hours without requiring PTO to attend a child’s school function. For example, employees can work a full work week (40 hours), while coming in earlier or leaving later to attend a late afternoon sporting event or take a family member to a medical appointment.

  • Identify transferable skills

Jobs in the construction industry are not all about hardhats and dirt. There are positions in accounting, human resources, marketing and project management that are primarily done at a desk. Some of the most valuable skills for any job include strong communication, organization and the ability to effectively multitask – all strengths more frequently found in females.

  • Champion mentoring programs

Create programs for mentoring young women within the industry. Providing opportunities for women within the company to connect and learn from more seasoned employees offers a more welcoming work environment and support system for training. In addition, encourage female senior employees engage young women in high school and college to introduce potential career opportunities.

Celebrating Women in Construction

The National Association of Women in Construction offers solutions and support for reaching a new generation and population of potential employees in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC). In 1998 the association introduced its first Women in Construction (WIC) Week, which celebrates and promotes the role of women in the construction industry. The 2024 WIC will be held March 3 – 9  with networking and educational events in cities throughout the U.S., including Phoenix. To get involved, check out events and learn more about the organization’s Phoenix chapter.

Author: Andrea Piering is a 25-year veteran in the construction industry and the co-owner and president of Sun State Builders.