Women in Construction

The construction industry, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the second-largest employer in America, with roughly 10 million employees (Hartman, 2004). However, women make up only 10 percent of this workforce. This is slowly changing as women are in increasingly high demand. According to Michael Barkett, state director of training for the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation, women in construction are now employed as job foremen, job superintendents and architects" and the door to women's involvement in construction is "wide open" for those women wishing to pursue this job market (Hartman, 2004, p.S25).

A variety of "government, union and business entities" are endeavoring to inform both women and minority workers of the job opportunities available in the skilled trades (Smith, 2000, p. 3). Through their cooperation, it is the hope of these entities that the urgent need for worker will bring more women and minorities into these professions.

For example, the Great Lakes Construction Alliance is a non-profit organization whose goal is to improve practices within the construction industry and devise methods for attracting women and members of minorities to the industry through research with local unions, such as "bricklayers, carpenters, iron workers, plumbers and roofers" (Smith, 2000, p. 3). Donald O'Connell, managing director of the alliance, indicates that his organization is interested in bringing diversity to the skilled trades because the larger, more diverse pool of workers aids all stakeholders in the industry (Riegel, 2006).

In many areas, agency law dictates that women must be a part of the construction workforce. For example, in the city of Detroit, Executive Order 22 stipulates that all construction projects that receive public funding must have a workforce that consists of "50 percent Detroit residents, 25 percent minorities and 5 percent women based on total work hours" (Smith, 2000, p. 3). In order to comply with this order, companies must demonstrate that they exercised reasonable efforts to comply with these guidelines.

Therefore, in order to meet or exceed the requirements, business leaders and government officials indicate that cooperation is crucial between the various entities involved, that is, "unions, schools, government and employers" (Smith, 2000, p. 3). An entity formed specifically to promote diversity is the Detroit Works Partnership, which is an alliance of businesses, government, and skilled trades (Smith, 2000). One problem that impedes the goal of attracting a more diverse work pool is the image problem that plagues construction work.

Despite increased technological advances, which have served to make the work less cyclical, prospective employees worry that they will be unable to find year-round employment by pursuing a construction career (Smith, 2000). Despite the increasing numbers of women entering construction, most of the women employed in this industry work in sales or office jobs, as 56. 3 percent of the women in construction are in this sector (Hartman, 2004). Of these women, 23. 2 percent are in management or professional positions (Hartman, 2004).

Kayleen Braxton, president of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Association of Women in Contracting, notes that 21 members in their chapter that represents such diverse business entities as "marketing, office management insurance and safety," but, thus far, "no tradeswomen" (Hartman, 2004, p. 3). Nevertheless, it is true that more women are entering non-traditional areas of the industry, such as electrical work. Burkett also reports that more women are active in the "road building business" and welding (Hartman, 2004, p.

S25). However, the number of women who are actually participating on construction sites remains small. Riegal (2006) offers insight into this situation by describing the careers of two women contractors working in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area. Mandy Miller is a general contractor who works for Bonnie Ferrell, the "best-established female contractor in the area" (Riegel, 2006, p. 46). Ferrell admits that she had considerable trouble passing the contractor's exam despite the fact that she attended trade school in order to prepare.

She eventually succeeded after receiving coaching. Many male contractors start out as carpenters and apprentice on the job (Riegel, 2006). Many women, on the other hand, appear to be "scared off by the prospect of having to learn the lingo and master the literal nuts and bolts of the building trade," which includes getting your hands dirty (Riegel, 2006, p. S25). However, despite the low number of female contractors, women appear to have a particular attitude for building in that they value "aesthetics, the design and the curb appeal" of a home (Riegel, 2006, p.S25).

It is for this reason that both Ferrell and Miller feel that women are better suited to the residential construction business than men, who focus on profit. Another factor in the failure of construction to attract large numbers of women has to do, once again, with image. Many parents and educators insist on measuring succe3ss in terms of college degrees rather than by opportunity or potential for income (Smith, 2000).

In other words, there is less social prestige in earning a lucrative income from being involved in construction than in obtaining a liberal arts degree that does not fully prepare the individual for earning a living. Therefore, one of the entities that is a stakeholder in this scenario is the educational system, and the above information suggests that educators should rethink some of their priorities and present high school students with the lucrative opportunities available to them as apprentices in trade schools when considering their futures. ?

REFERENCES Hartmann, M.(2004). Opportunities in construction industry increasing for women. _The Mississippi Business Journal_ 26(47), S25. Retrieved September 16, 2007 from eLibrary database. Riegel, S. (2006). Women in construction. _The Greater Baton Rouge Business Report_ 24(21), 46. Retrieved September 16, 2007 from eLibrary database. Smith, J. (2000). Minorities, women still rare in trades. _Crain's Detroit Business_ 16(27), 3. Retrieved September 16, 2007 from eLibrary database. No Portion of This Document May Be Reprinted Without Proper Attribution to the Paper Store as a Source.