This year, with most COVID-19 restrictions lifted, the construction industry is tackling new challenges. Cost and inflation pressures continue, but contractors are seeing projects and opportunities move into the pipeline, providing a reason for optimism.
To meet the industry’s demand for labor, companies must address a critical issue: the shortage of skilled female workers. During Women in Construction Week™, let’s examine where we are now and consider a powerful incentive to attract women to the industry: employee benefits.
Currently, women make up only 10.9 percent of the construction workforce, and less than 5 percent of field workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“This trend drives the talent vacuum in the industry and shows that there is still much work to be done to attract women to the field,” says Sharon Hidalgo, Co-Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for National Women in Construction (NAWIC).
As discussed in Segal’s article, “Recruiting and Retaining Women in the Building Trades,” there are a number of ways to foster a more inclusive environment for women in construction, including:
While there has been progress in these areas, it is employee benefits where the greatest difference can be made.
“When companies understand women’s needs beyond the jobsite, and design their programs to fit those needs,” says Stephen Lewis, Architecture, Engineering and Construction leader at Segal, “they remove barriers for women starting work at 7 am or working second and third shifts, weekends or at jobsites further away from home.”
According to a Segal survey of women in the building trades, family-based considerations are viewed as a top deterrent to pursuing a career in the industry. Transportation is another key concern, say industry experts.
However, employee benefits may be valued differently by women based on their personal characteristics, residence, life stage and socioeconomic circumstances. As companies work to understand and respond to women’s diverse needs, benefits can help improve the employee experience.
Among the most important are programs that support:
Coverage for infertility treatment, mental health, maternal and parental leave is expanding, as well as employer support of care management, advocacy and lifestyle coaching.
Simply offering the types of benefits that appeal to women isn’t enough. Women may face issues fully accessing their benefits due to a lack of free time or job flexibility.
What’s important, says Ms. Hidalgo, is removing potential barriers that may impact women’s long-term job success. “The best childcare program in the world may not work if it doesn’t help a mom get to an early morning jobsite.”
This sentiment reflects a growing trend in the industry as companies take a DEI lens to better understand the root causes that keep women out of the field. Benefits can be a competitive advantage in attracting women to the industry, since improvements can directly impact job performance, well-being and overall happiness.
In 2023, a year where companies will need to compete on a budget, DEI in Benefits may be the best dollar-for-dollar investment construction companies can make in their workforce.
This page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax or investment advice. You are encouraged to discuss the issues raised here with your legal, tax and other advisors before determining how the issues apply to your specific situations.
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