VPPPA has partnered with the experts at MindWise Innovations to present a monthly article addressing issues and questions that members might be hesitant to ask about. These columns will address your concerns about mental health, substance abuse, brain injuries, family issues, and more.
By: Lisa Desai, MindWise Innovations
March is Women’s History Month, and it is only fitting that we pay respect to the role women play in the workforce, particularly in industries where physical safety is a priority. While women are still a small presence in the construction industry – approximately 9% of the workforce – there are reasons to grow that number. For example, the statistics reported by the Bureau of Labor in 2021 showed a very narrow gender pay gap compared to other professions. Women earn 99.1% of what men make in the field. Additionally, the process of working as a team in building can feel personally and professionally rewarding.
How can we build a safe and supportive environment for women in construction? Let’s think about the way psychological safety – an important topic in the workplace that was coined by Harvard professor, Amy Edmondson – can help build a different type of safe environment. It begins in two ways:
1. Committing to a larger cultural change in a company or industry alliance.
2. Taking specific steps to support women in their professional development.
Supporting all employees – regardless of gender, race, age and ethnicity – benefits everyone at work. Here are some ways that organizations can honor women’s roles in the workplace and make construction a welcoming career choice:
Build and maintain a respectful environment – that is free of sexually intimidating or harassing behaviors that might be deemed intimidating and inappropriate. This includes inappropriate images, language and stories that are told on the job.
Community for women – create opportunities for women to learn together and support one another.
Include men too! – creating a respectful environment for women benefits men on the job as well. Invite all employees of all genders to discussions about mental health, self-care and empowerment. Male allies in the workplace are invaluable to women’s success, and again, benefits everyone.
Awareness events – When women are a minority by number in an industry workforce, it’s important to keep motivation and professional conversations alive through regular educational events.
Networking for all – too often networking is seen as a professional activity for office workers, but the reality is that people in all job roles benefit from mentorship and meeting new people who work in similar jobs. Professional growth is important for women’s sense of professional identity – whether you are a carpenter, electrician, engineer, designer or foreman.
Keep work fun – Humor and laughter lightens the mood and can help create strong relationships among team members. Of course, it’s important that humor be funny without putting down any group of people.