The construction industry faces a serious labor shortage in 2023. According to a recent forecast from Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), an additional 650,000 workers are needed beyond the normal pace of hiring to meet the demand.
And those workers need to have specialized skills. According to the same ABC report, low-skilled laborers made up over 40 percent of growth in the construction workforce over the past decade, while those who possess specialized skills continue to be lacking in the industry
What caused the construction labor shortage?
A number of factors have brought us to the present crisis. Many skilled workers are aging out of the workforce, and there’s a significant lack of interest in construction careers among younger generations. Related to that, fewer young people are attending trade school to gain the skills needed to refill positions left vacant by those who are retiring.
The current economic slowdown has also exacerbated the dwindling pipeline of construction talent. Many contractors shifted to other careers during the pandemic, and now that demand for construction is back, they have made other commitments.
With the high demand combined with more competition for talent, the construction industry is looking to a historically underutilized group to fill the need for workers: women.
A growing number of women in construction jobs
Traditionally, construction has been a male-dominated industry due to stereotypes, a lack of recruitment of women, and outright gender discrimination. By some estimates, 99 percent of job site workers are male. With fewer women already in the industry, it can be harder to hire them because they are less likely to have experience and may not be part of industry hiring networks — but in 2022, that is changing quickly.
Since 2016, the number of women in construction has increased rapidly in the US. While women currently comprise only about 14 percent of the construction industry as a whole, the number of women in construction jobs in the US has increased more than 50 percent in recent years to more than a million. Hispanic women have led the charge, increasing in numbers by 117 percent within the industry over the past six years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And while across industries women make an average of 81.1 percent of what men earn, the gender pay gap is much smaller within the construction industry — women in construction earn 99.1 percent of what men make in similar roles.
Outstanding women in construction
As more women enter the field of construction, they are led by ground-breaking female leaders who have risen to leadership despite the built-in hurdles of a male-dominated industry. Here are a few examples:
Guiomar Obregon, CEO and co-founder, Precision 2000 Inc. (P2K)
Guiomar Obregon started a civil construction contracting company with her husband in the late 1990s, primarily because they saw a need for minority-owned construction firms in their area of Atlanta, Georgia. More than two decades later, P2K employs about 80 people and the company has worked on many regional civil infrastructure, aviation, and transportation projects.
Angie Simon, former president and CEO, Western Allied Mechanical
Angie Simon started her career at Western as a 22-year-old project manager and has worked her way up to president and then CEO. In 2019, she served as the first female president of the National Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA). During her tenure at Western, she was committed to hiring and mentoring women at Western Allied, where 40% of employees are women.
Katie Coulson, vice president — account manager, Skanska USA Building Inc.
Katie Coulson’s career in construction began with a college internship that captured her interest. She worked in construction management before moving to the general contracting side, starting as a senior project engineer at Skanska and working her way up to vice president — account manager.
Nazanin Codd, vice president — human resources, HITT Contracting
Nazanin Codd brought extensive experience in HR to the construction world when she joined HITT Contracting as a recruiting manager. As vice president of human resources, Codd now oversees the company’s HR strategy and operations. Codd is committed to mentoring others in the field, often providing counsel and guidance regarding compliance and employee experience issues.