Embracing a culture shift in the construction industry

(This article was originally published on NAHB.org and has been edited for content and style.)

Construction careers offer competitive wages and advancement opportunities. And given that half of construction contractors earn more than $49,070 a year, it’s no surprise that the industry attracts people from diverse backgrounds. With skilled trade workers in high demand, how can the housing community attract and retain anyone who is ready to contribute to the American dream?

On an episode of the Builders Mutual podcast, “Building Progress,” Judy Dinelle, 84 Lumber’s Construction Ambassador, and Tara LeDuc, Builders Mutual’s senior risk management consultant, discuss how a cultural shift in the workplace can grow a diverse workforce.

Are there possible changes employers should make to hire more women and diversify their workforce?

Dinelle: Many men ask us at Professional Women in Building or individually, what should I do to change? How can I take classes to learn how to change my business to attract women and keep women working for me? What else should I do?

It is not the case that you have to renew your entire structure or company. You just need to focus on your thinking. Do you need more flexibility with hours so that it is not so regulated in case there is a family problem or if you have children? That goes both ways, because there are also many people who stay at home.

Why do you think it took so long for the construction industry to make this transition to a more diverse workforce?

LeDuc: It’s always been a male-dominated industry and, so, I guess, unless we get everyone on board to change that and shift that… since men traditionally hire men. I think we need to do some training and get management and business leaders in line with opening up and willing to make some changes.

I think we’re stuck in a pattern and we don’t like change, generally as a society. I think we always just did it because it always worked. But again, I think there’s a huge need for a more diverse workforce and I think it’s going to happen and I’m excited about it.

What specific challenges do you think women in the construction industry face, not just in the workplace, but in the industry as a whole?

Dinelle: I think one of the biggest issues is work-life balance. The other challenge you see is men who are very clumsy around women on the job site. They don’t really know what to do. They try too hard on themselves to try to help because they think they are stronger or think, ‘I’ve been doing this for 20 years and you just came in. As a woman, you probably don’t know as much as the other employee who is a young man standing next to you.’

LeDuc: There are also fewer role models for women, but that will come with time and men will start to feel more comfortable.

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