NAHB Professional Women in Building Week Focuses on Diversifying Labor Force

PWB WeekToday marks the start of NAHB’s annual Professional Women in Building (PWB) Week, a national celebration of the contributions of women in the residential construction industry.

On Motivational Monday, we’re taking a closer look at the theme of the week: how the industry can diversify its workforce to address the labor shortage issue.

PWB Chair Judy Dinelle, CAPS, CGP, building ambassador for 84 Lumber, is committing her time as chair this year to solving this challenge. “Women make up more than half of the country’s population and nearly half of the overall labor force, but only 9% of the workers in the construction industry,” she said. “And we’ve been around 9% since 2002. We need to increase our efforts to educate, advertise and spread the word for all of the available jobs in the building sector.”

There is good reason to believe that the industry can recruit more women into the workforce. In fact, the number of women in the construction industry grew steadily from 2002 to 2007, and then fell sharply with the Great Recession, according to NAHB analysis of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. This is not surprising, considering approximately 2.7 million total construction jobs were lost during this time. Female construction employment declined nearly 30% from a high of 1.1 million in 2007 to 807,000 in 2010.

While the number of females in construction has slowly increased since the Great Recession with about 907,000 in 2017, it is still below the pre-recession level. Which means there is great opportunity for the industry to build upon this steady growth and make a bigger impact in the number of women entering residential construction.

Pre-apprenticeship programs are one solution to help to train women to enter high-paying yet non-traditional jobs. The Department of Labor (DOL) is working to increase apprenticeship opportunities across the country, with an emphasis on recruiting women, people of color and other underrepresented populations.

Last year, DOL announced a new National Center for Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment, a consortium of groups representing tradeswomen’s organizations around the country, including those focused on construction.

PWB councils across the country also are major supporters of these apprenticeship programs, which provide on-the-job training and classroom learning to open more doors for women to enter the construction industry.

Some of the leading apprenticeship programs include New York City’s Nontraditional Employment for Women, Tradeswomen Inc. in California, Chicago Women in Trades, Oregon Tradeswomen and HBI, which operates across the country.

This year’s PWB Week is sponsored by 84 Lumber. We previously shared some simple ways that members and HBAs can support housing and women in the industry in your local community this week.

We’ll also feature a daily post highlighting the impact of women in our industry – past, present and future.

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