A dog in a pickup truck, low-slung pants, a swagger, a loud mouth, and a can-do attitude have long defined the construction worker.
Of course, hammers (now pneumatic nailers), saws (power miter saws), drills (cordless drills), and levels (laser rangefinders) have always been a part of building, but equally if not more important today are iPhones, iPads, computers, and electronic prints. These demand additional skill sets. The benefits are numerous, among which are more organized projects, better communication, and less waste.
An even bigger change, in my opinion, is the opening of construction to women, or, more accurately, women demanding access to good jobs in the industry. It has not been easy. The pioneering women have endured pervasive denigration, belittlement, intimidation, and sexual harassment. These behaviors still exist in the field but with less frequency. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2010 report, women currently make up 9 percent of the construction work force, or more than 800,000.
Women still do not generally think of construction as a career, but it is an option and truly a good one. It offers a ticket to the middle class. Wages range from $15-$80 an hour or even more. Perhaps the most satisfying aspect is being a part of creating something tangible: beautiful structures out of seemingly nothing. The field has a shortage of workers of either gender with good skills and qualifications. Many of the jobs are not physically hard, though some are, while many are mentally demanding. A good brain is often the best tool.
The National Association of Women in Construction has approximately 100 chapters scattered across the country. Many of these provide training opportunities for women wanting to enter the field or advance up the ladder to a more challenging, responsible, lucrative position.
Good computer skills and the abilities to multitask, organize, and communicate well can give a woman the edge over many men in construction. Women make up more than 20 percent of the team in our company, Allen Construction. Their presence, some in key management positions and others out with the guys in the field, have enriched our company culture and helped boost us into the top tier of construction companies nationally.