Reports and Surveys | December 22, 2022

Industry Insights on Recruiting and Retaining Tradeswomen

Women could help the construction industry meet the pressing need for more workers. However, as those who work in the building trades know, recruiting and retaining tradeswomen is challenging.

Recently, we invited members of the building trades to take a short survey to share their thoughts on this important topic. Construction industry employers and union leaders may be interested in what nearly 90 respondents told us.

Hispanic Female Construction Worker Driving Earth Mover

Key findings include:

  • Nearly three-quarters identified unfamiliarity with opportunities and benefits as the greatest challenge to recruiting women, and just under two-thirds pointed to the lack of childcare.
  • More than half said an apprenticeship/pre-apprenticeship program and mentorship/networking opportunities are among the top three programs and benefits that will improve recruitment and retention of women in the building trades.

The biggest challenges with recruiting women to the building trades

As illustrated in the following graph, more than half of respondents identified five issues as being among the biggest challenges.

Unfamiliar with opportunities and benefits

72%

Lack of childcare

65%

Discrimination, harassment concerns

58%

Unsure where to start, unfamiliar with apprenticeship programs

53%

Lack of other women, underrepresentation

53%

Stigma associated with working in the trades

41%

Not understanding job demands, requirements

35%

Travel requirements

15%

Other*

11%


* The write-in responses encompassed unequal treatment of women, attitudes towards women in the trades and issues related to family building.


Promoting careers in the trades to women can address three of the challenges listed above. Offering childcare programs or financial assistance for childcare would meet another need. Only recruiting and retention success will solve the fifth of the top five issues: lack of other women, underrepresentation. 

The top programs and benefits that may help recruit and retain women

We asked respondents to choose three programs and benefits they believe will improve the recruitment and retention of women in the building trades. The options can be bundled into two major categories: job development and family/caregiver support.

Job development was the clear winner. As illustrated by the graph below, more than half of respondents selected an apprenticeship/pre-apprenticeship program and mentorship/networking opportunities. Additionally, nearly half of respondents think offering a childcare discount, subsidy or voucher would be helpful and more than 40 percent think offering maternity/parental leave would be helpful.

Apprenticeship/pre-apprenticeship program

61%

Mentorship/networking opportunities

53%

Childcare discount/subsidy/voucher

47%

Maternity leave/parental leave

42%

Caregiver support

30%

Childcare/eldercare referral services

15%

Financial education/planning services

10%

Dependent care FSA

8%

Other*

8%


* The write-in responses were “dental and vision,” “direct entry for women to apprenticeship and employment,” “other women supporting them,” “paid holidays/sick time,” “preparing the current workforce to be an inclusive working group” and “modified job duties/task requirements.”

Unique or innovative programs being offered

We asked the survey respondents to share unique or innovative programs being offered to attract women to the trades and/or retain them. The responses align with the findings above. Both job development and family/caregiver support are important.

A few respondents mentioned some locals in the building trade do a good job with recruiting women. They offer apprenticeship classes (some just for women), mentorship and networking opportunities. Some offer maternity leave programs. Others recognize childcare is a major hurdle and have investigated daycare facilities around training centers and/or subsidies to help with costs.

These initiatives were mentioned by name:

Several respondents shared these observations and recommendations:

  • Pre-apprenticeship programs and mentorship focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion would be valuable.
  • Women tend to leave the trades once their children reach school age, when juggling work and school schedules becomes tough.
  • Flextime would help workers who are caregivers.
  • Offering job-sharing and part-time opportunities with benefits would help attract women to the trades.

Key takeaways

Building trades that offer apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs geared to women might be able to increase participation by building awareness. Building trades that don’t yet offer those programs may wish to consider introducing similar training opportunities.

Meeting families’ childcare needs is also an important consideration for construction industry employers and unions that want to recruit and retain women. While childcare is a family issue (not just a women’s issue), women assume most responsibility for childcare.

Learn more

The survey confirms observations we made in our recent article, “Recruiting and Retaining Women in the Building Trades.”

What is your organization doing to attract and retain women in the building trades?

We’re interested. Let’s have a conversation.

Get in Touch

About the respondents

More than three-quarters of the survey respondents are union members.

The pie chart below shows the breakdown by their industry affiliation.

 

Other 19%, Pipe Trades 17%, Sheet Metal 16%, Electrical Workers 12%, Iron Workers 9%, Building Trades 7%, Carpenters 7%, Operating Engineers 7%, Painters 6%

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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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