Women In Construction Week: Common Myths About a Career in Construction
Happy Women in Construction Week! MCCEI joins the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and thousands of other organizations across the United States this week in celebrating the contributions that women make to the built environment every day. While we are recognizing these women, we would like to encourage those women who haven’t considered a career in construction to give it a second look.
The construction industry is not without its challenges, but it brings opportunity for great success, as well. Let’s talk about the myths and stereotypes that may be preventing you from enjoying a career in construction – and present the facts!
MYTH #1: WOMEN ARE NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO HANDLE HEAVY LABOR.
FACT: The strength requirements for nontraditional jobs such as construction are often exaggerated. Many construction jobs are less physically demanding than many traditional jobs held by women. Stereotypical careers for women like nursing and waitressing can be just as physically demanding as some construction jobs. Moreover, the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that special equipment be provided for every heavy job regardless of whether they are being done by men or women. Locally, employers such as BGE have developed tools that will allow for increased diversity in their employees. For example, a typical manhole cover weighs 250 lbs. That is backbreaking work for any gender. BGE adopted a tool that allows all their employees to more easily lift the cover. And yes, while the average man is stronger than the average woman, that’s not true for everyone. The advancement of women in sports such as MMA, boxing, and football is proof that gender doesn’t necessarily translate to physical ability.
MYTH #2: NONTRADITIONAL JOBS ARE TOO DIRTY, NOISY AND DANGEROUS FOR WOMEN.
FACT: Some construction jobs can be dirty and sometimes dangerous. However, both men and women compare job hazards with the benefits of taking certain jobs. In addition, many female-dominated jobs, like nursing, come with their own risks. Many women do not mind getting dirty when they are paid a good wage, and with proper safety instruction, all workers can minimize the danger they experience on the job.
And not all construction jobs are noisy, dirty or dangerous! Many jobs in construction, are “clean” jobs that require little physical strength. A construction project manager, for example, almost never is required to do any work with their hands. Most of the duties of a project manager are done on a computer. There are a myriad of careers in construction just like this: preconstruction, accounting, virtual design and construction, estimating, quality control, and business development to name a few. There is a job for everyone in construction.
MYTH #3: WOMEN AND MEN ARE REPRESENTED EQUALLY IN MOST OCCUPATIONS.
FACT: Women workers continue to be concentrated in traditionally women-centric occupations. The gender wage gap and occupational segregation are persistent features of the U.S. labor market. Only five of the 20 most common occupations for men and the 20 most common occupations for women overlap. Of all women working full-time, about four of ten (39.0 percent) work in female-dominated occupations and nearly half of men (48.0 percent) work in male-dominated occupations. Only 7.2 percent of women work in male-dominated occupations, while only 5.1 percent of men work in female-dominated occupations.
After considerable progress in the 1980s and 1990s, progress towards the greater gender integration of occupations has stalled, approximately at the same time as progress towards closing the gender wage gap. Women need better access to well-paid jobs that are currently primarily done by men, and, of course, they need better terms and conditions, and better pay, for the jobs that are primarily done by women.
MYTH #4: JOBS IN WHICH WOMEN ARE TRADITIONALLY EMPLOYED PAY SALARIES COMPARABLE TO JOBS IN WHICH MEN ARE TRADITIONALLY EMPLOYED.
FACT: Male-dominated occupations tend to pay more than female-dominated occupations at similar skill levels. For example, women ‘elementary and middle school teachers’—one of the most common occupations for women and a female-dominated field—earn $982 per week (compared with $1,148 for men). Men in ‘software developers, applications and systems software’—one the most common occupations for men and a male-dominated field—earn $1,894 per week for full-time work (compared with $1,644 for women). Both occupations require at least a bachelor’s degree. Tackling occupational segregation—many men working in occupations with other men, and many women working with other women—is an important part of eliminating the gender wage gap.
Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in the U.S. earn on average 81.1 percent of what men make. The gender pay gap is significantly smaller in construction occupations, with women earning on average 94 percent of what men make.
Moral of the story: if you are a woman struggling to make ends meet, or if a young woman in your life is looking to choose a career, look towards nontraditional male-dominated careers like construction. You might surprise yourself in what you can accomplish!