Imagine a woman-owned building firm leading the charge constructing your dream house. Imagine a woman electrician wiring everything from top to bottom. Imagine a woman plumber, a woman landscaper, a woman-led concrete company strategizing, planning,  installing, excavating, planting, and pouring to ensure a safe, sustainable, comfortable home.

Now imagine that we didn’t feel the need for “woman” as a prefix. Imagine if it was not noteworthy. If it was nothing more than selecting the best professional for the job. This is how we’ll know we are making inroads in revolutionizing the construction industry.

We’re making strides in that direction. Proactively recruiting women in the construction industry is how we’ll get there.

The Barriers: What Keeps Women from Construction Careers?

You know the saying, “Where there’s a will there’s a way”? We can accurately extend that to, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way… and, very often, a woman.”

Many people don’t know that there were skilled women tradespeople and construction laborers in Europe as far back as the 13th century. The problem was that laboring in a “man’s field” was seen as immoral, so these trailblazers tended to work under the radar.

As times changed – through industrial and cultural revolutions – women’s work in the field continued to be underrecognized and undervalued. Until we come to WWII. The country’s economy, and infrastructure, depended on women – who were summarily fired from their positions as men returned to the homefront.

It’s been a long and winding road for women in construction… but they have always been there. They have always been driven, capable, skilled, and integral to the completion of projects. They have not always been, or felt, welcomed with open arms. The pervasive stereotype that this is a man’s field (and much too gritty, dirty, hard for delicate lady folks) has been a detriment to women pursuing construction, and to the construction industry itself as it cuts itself off from a significant portion of the US workforce.

This is changing, albeit on much the same long and winding road. According to OSHA data, the number of women employed in construction jumped by 81.3% from 1985 to 2007. During and after the Great Recession and a subsequent loss of 2.5 million construction jobs between 2007 and 2010, we’ve seen that wave of progress recede.

It’s time to focus on recruiting these qualified, skilled individuals into the industry – and on promoting construction and the trades as a viable (and advantageous) career choice for girls and young women. It’s time to remove those obstacles.

The Solutions: Recruiting Women In the Construction Industry

Talk is fine, but those of us in the construction industry tend to prefer action. Initiatives like “Women Build It” deliver.

Haven Media and BAGI recently hosted the first annual Women Build It event, featuring exciting keynote speakers, breakout sessions, panel discussion, career development opportunities, and most importantly, the chance for women to connect and network with peers. From empowering themselves to use their voice in professional settings and knowing their worth to representation in the workplace and mentorship, the conversations were relevant, lively, and inspiring.

As Mia Farrell, industry veteran and design and sales consultant with ACo, says that the conference enables a space for education, celebration, connection, and collaboration. “There are a lot of amazing women in the industry, and conferences like this provide the opportunity for us to get together, to learn and grow together, and share experiences.”

Construction As a Viable – and Attractive – Opportunity

Women Build It is an opportunity for women in the industry to connect – but what about those who are thinking about a career in construction and the trades? Those who want to keep their options open? Those who make, build, and innovate because it’s their passion? And what about the young girls who have the mind of a creator and the drive to learn without barriers?

All across the country, in schools, community centers, afterschool programs, trade classes, and other initiatives, girls and women are claiming their space. Right here at home, we are taking every chance to expand access and opportunity:

Maker Playground

Fishers’s 15,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility is packed with tools, tech, supplies, and arts to ignite the imagination, help build skills, and connect people with their passions – and each other! With a full wood shop, metal shop, CNC machine, 3D printer, laser engraver, and other equipment, the Maker Playground provides a world of exploration and discovery.

School Partnerships

Hub & Spoke and the Maker Playground are reaching out into the school system to provide educational opportunities in the trades. This gets kids thinking about careers in construction, and if nothing else, it gives them the confidence and know-how to tackle projects.

Make48

This exciting competition is designed for people who have big ideas and want to bring them to life. Co-creator and CEO Tom Gray says, “Our vision was to give people a chance to build physical prototypes because we find that only 5% of the population can build something and everyone else has ideas stuck in their heads.” Make48 is a prime opportunity for the 95% of us who need help from experts and access to tools of the trade.

Entremaker

Hub & Spoke, the Maker Playground, and Ivy Tech have partnered to launch the Entremaker Program. This is a 5-week, 40 hour courses that covers basic safety, introductory construction math, intro to power and hand tools, basic rigging, and more. It’s a terrific introduction into the industry, and it boost confidences. Yes, you can do this!

Encouraging girls and women to think about, and pursue, careers in the construction industry is vital. We can all be part of the solution. Visit Hub & Spoke to learn more.