How to Foster an Inclusive Workplace Environment
Every March, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) hosts Women in Construction Week, a special celebration of—and for—women in the industry. While NAWIC works throughout the year providing professional development, networking opportunities, and more for its members, Women in Construction Week shines a spotlight on women contractors and business owners and aims to inspire others to pursue their own careers in trade fields.
In honor of this year’s theme, Envision Equity, we’re examining ways construction leadership can do their part to welcome women to the construction workforce and build a supportive environment for all employees.
Be sure to check out the NAWIC website for a full list of Women in Construction Week events, including some free virtual discussions with industry leaders.
Why should your construction business focus on inclusivity?
The construction industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, as of 2022 only 10.9% of the construction workforce are women.
As more women are entering into traditionally male-dominated fields, it’s natural that construction companies would want to take advantage of this untapped resource, especially in a competitive job market. Excluding women from the hiring process would mean cutting the pool of potential candidates by half. You may miss out on the chance to hire the most skilled, motivated person for the job.
It’s one thing to have the right mindset about wanting to hire more women, it’s another thing entirely to make sure your workplace culture is inviting to them. How can you make sure your company can attract and keep top talent, including women?
How to build an inclusive workplace for women in construction
Start with job listings.
When creating job listings for open positions at your company, be sure to avoid using gendered language. For example, if you’re describing job responsibilities for a Field Engineer, do not say something like, “He will contribute to quality control.” Instead, try this: “This position will contribute to quality control.”
You should also make sure to mention your company’s commitment to diversity & inclusion somewhere in the job description. This will let women candidates know you'll consider their applications seriously.
Prioritize fairness when reviewing applications.
You want to hire an employee because of what they’ll bring to the position, not just because they help you meet a certain quota.
Instead of signaling out applications from women candidates, consider a blind review process. Having a third party remove names from resumes before they are presented to a hiring manager can level the playing field for everyone.
Not only will this help new women employees feel secure they were hired for their qualifications, it will demonstrate to your existing staff that you are committed to equality.
Pay women equally.
This advice should be a no-brainer. If a woman is doing the same job as a male employee with similar experience, she should be paid the same amount.
Eliminating the pay gap is a surefire way to make your company an equal environment for women workers.
Educate your employees.
Your team likely continues growing their professional skills in areas directly related to the job. Why not offer diversity and inclusion training?
There are many online and in-person training courses that focus on workplace inclusivity. Schedule some time for your employees to take a class or listen to a webinar. They’ll learn how subtle language and behavioral cues can inadvertently cause stress, anxiety and discomfort. You can even tackle the subject in toolbox talks to reinforce what was learned in formal training.
Often small changes in the way managers interact with their direct reports, or the way employees interact with each other, will make a big difference in making women employees feel appreciated and welcomed in the field or office. And those changes start with education.
Whether it’s in a meeting or on the jobsite, don’t hesitate to ask a woman employee questions about a project or for her assessment of an important issue. Managers should also check in periodically, providing a clear, open line of communication.
Women workers may be less inclined than their male counterparts to speak up out of fear expressing any criticisms or differing opinions will have a negative impact on how they are perceived at the company. Reaching out first will give them an opportunity to be heard and demonstrate that you value their knowledge and input.
Provide growth opportunities.
Offering continued education helps retain employees in general. Encouraging women staff members to take advantage of professional development opportunities you financially support is another great way to demonstrate your commitment to growing their skills in the industry.
As a company leader, you can also familiarize yourself with the educational resources for women in construction available on the NAWIC website. Get your women employees involved with NAWIC or a mentoring program and help them build their own community of support.
Stay committed to including women in the workforce.
Inclusivity is not a number-based goal. You don’t reach a specific number of women workers and stop worrying about inclusion.
But, with commitment, you can build a company environment that welcomes women into the world of construction, and your team will be stronger because of it.