In honour of National Women Equality Day that recently passed on August 26th it is only fitting that we discuss the disappointing number of female representation within the construction industry, why we have seen decreases in these numbers in recent years and what we can do to increase the number of women pursuing careers in the construction industry.

Decrease in the Number of Women in Construction

In recent years the rate of participation by women within the construction industry has not grown much over time, especially when looking at the skilled trades and on-site management positions. In 2006 women represented 12.6% of the Canadian Construction workforce, with only 4% of that number working in the trades. Currently the top construction jobs with the highest female representations include; land surveyors 15.8%, construction inspector 12.8%, health and safety inspectors 30.1%.

Not only is the female interest in the industry lacking, but the number of females who complete apprenticeship programs is significantly low and has been this way for many years. Unfortunately, a typical Canadian female student does not receive exposure to this type of work and are less likely to pursue a career in the skilled trades.

In the past two years the industry has started to see some significant decreases in female representation within the industry, which is unfortunate as they had begun seeing a steady increase from 2015-2017. From 2018 to 2019, the overall number of women in the construction industry dropped from 186, 300 to roughly 182,000. Despite the fact that representation by women was decreases, male representation within the industry had continued to grow.

Barriers to Entry and Practices to Increase Number of Women in the Construction Industry

The fact is that many women want to pursue careers in construction but face many unique barriers that prevent them from advancing and staying within the industry. Statistics show that many women do not remain in the industry for longer than 5 years, which could be due to the inflexible work policies for those who leave to start families or potential experiences with workplace harassment or bullying.

In order to improve the participation of women in the industry, they need to consciously promote long-term careers in construction management and skilled trades to female youth at high schools, colleges and trades fairs. Some employers within the industry provide scholarships and pre-apprenticeship programs for women pursuing these careers as incentive for them entering a male dominating industry. Construction companies should look to improve business practices through training and online resources in order to eliminate potential negative attitudes towards female workers and ultimately increase female retention in the industry.