Five reasons why women should work in the construction trades

The residential construction industry provides a rewarding career path for women. Builders and remodelers across Washington state are seeking skilled artisans and professionals, including carpenters, architects, engineers, plumbers, electricians and painters. In the U.S., women make up about 50 percent of the workforce, but only 9 percent of women work in the construction/home building industry, according to the U.S. Census.

Sherry Schwab; December, 2012

Here are some reasons why women should consider pursuing a fulfilling career in the trades:

Competitive salary. A pay gap exists between men and women across most industries. On average, women in the United States earn 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. However, the gap is much smaller in the construction trades. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in the construction industry earn 97 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Job opportunities. Unfilled jobs in the construction sector reached a post-recession high. A National Association of Home Builders, or NAHB, survey found labor shortages ranging from 47 percent of builders reporting a shortage of building-maintenance managers to a whopping 83 percent reporting a shortage of framing crews. There are shortages of labor in various types of construction jobs including framers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and bricklayers. The residential construction industry is one of the few sectors where demand for new workers has risen.

Scholarships. Funding is available for students who are interested in or currently pursuing opportunities in residential construction. The National Housing Endowment offers several student scholarships and programs and the American Council for Construction Education has resources available for students interested in teaching opportunities in the field. The Building Industry Association of Washington also offers scholarships and grants and has awarded more than $500,000 since the program’s inception.

Network of experts. There is a growing community of women in construction who are willing to mentor and share insights with women entering the field. NAHB has a strong network of women in construction through its Professional Women in Building Council. For more than 10 years, the council has recognized, honored and supported women in the construction trades, opening new pathways toward continued innovation.

A sense of accomplishment. Working in the trades brings a sense of satisfaction for completing high-quality work that contributes to homebuilding and ultimately helping to fulfill the American dream. Darylene Dennon, the first tradeswoman to chair the NAHB Professional Women in Building Council, highlighted the benefits of being a woman in the trades: “I was raised to think that if you do a good job, people will appreciate it. And always learn a trade. You can do a trade anywhere. When I was in the field, I didn’t think of myself as unequal.”

Sherry Schwab is the first vice president of the Building Industry Association of Washington and will serve as president in 2020. She’s been a member of BIAW for more than 25 years. She was named BIAW Remodeler of the Year in 2002 and inducted into BIAW’s Hall of Fame in 2011. She was the National Association of Home Builders’ 2016 Professional Women in Building Member of the Year and in 2017-18 served as NAHB’s National Area Chairwoman, representing Washington and four other states.  

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