By Chris Nickle, executive vice president of McCarthy Building Companies.
In recent years, the construction industry has been making great strides to encourage women to pursue careers in construction, which historically has been a male-dominated field. In fact, Women in Construction Week, which was celebrated March 3 – 9, 2019, is a week dedicated to highlighting the growing role of women in the industry and raise awareness of the expanding roles and professional opportunities available for women in construction while also emphasizing the significant impact that women are having on the industry.
“The evolution of the construction industry over the past decade has been incredible,” said Kristine Newman, senior vice president, finance with McCarthy Holdings, Inc. “Women in Construction Week celebrates the diversification efforts of the industry and is having a positive impact on increasing the number of women entering the field and succeeding in leadership roles. Women are supporting one another and earning the respect of their male colleagues.”
While progress is being made, there is more work to be done to improve diversification and expanding the pipeline for recruiting new talent. Nationally, females represent 47% of the country’s workforce; however, that rate is just 9% the construction industry (including administration, human resources, and marketing), and just under 3 percent in production roles, according to the National Association of Women in Construction. With the skilled workforce shortage that the construction industry is facing, it is more imperative than ever to actively address the lack of female talent in construction.
At McCarthy Building Companies we are embracing this need, particularly here in the Southwest region, which is based in Phoenix. Several years ago, we created the McCarthy Partnership for Women, a national resource group designed to create a company culture where women are supported in their careers, and to more effectively promote the industry to the future workforce. Our goal is to recruit and retain top females in the marketplace and empower them to succeed. This effort has helped us to secure a Regional Leadership Team comprised of 40% women. So, we’re seeing more women rise to leadership roles here and elsewhere at McCarthy.
Unfortunately, a perception exists that construction careers are limited to swinging a hammer, that construction isn’t a place for women, or that women working in construction can’t be fulfilled or have families. As an industry, we must work together to dispel these misperceptions. Construction is an exciting and ever-changing industry; every day and every project is different. A career in construction brings opportunity for personal pride in what you are building – whether it’s a school, hospital or airport, together we are building communities. It also offers the chance, starting on day one, to problem-solve and have a significant impact on the future of our communities.
McCarthy, along with other companies who seek to hire team members with a background in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) are investing in efforts to promote these careers to young people, in hopes of attracting them to our field. By working with area schools and each of Arizona’s universities we are working to introduce the variety of exciting job opportunities available in construction. Starting as early as middle school and continuing through high school and college we participate in various outreach and mentoring programs like Arizona Construction Career Days, SkillsUSA Arizona Championships, ACE Mentoring, and the recent addition of courses to ASU’s Del E. Webb School of Construction to focus on operations and applications of innovative high-tech advancements. These are some of the ways we hope to change the perception long-held about the construction industry. We believe that early discussion with families about career opportunities in construction needs to happen to share positive examples of women succeeding in our industry. There are a variety of jobs in engineering, architecture, estimating and technology (such as virtual reality), to name a few, and we want to ensure all students know opportunities exist for them, regardless of gender.
School districts, educators, counselors, and parents must encourage all students to explore STEM, and introduce them to a variety of career opportunities, including those in construction. Some students may be interested in learning trades, which is an area of huge need right now. Others may head to college for engineering, construction science, and construction technology-related degrees. There are career opportunities for all these tracks in the construction industry.
The recruitment, retention, and development of women into the construction industry are opportunities that we can’t afford to ignore. The foundation for equality within our industry has been laid, and together we can construct a world built by men and women — working side by side.
Chris Nickle is executive vice president for McCarthy Building Companies Southwest Region.