In the News: 09.24.2018

Construction is Heavily Male-Dominated and that Needs to Change

— Ray Sedey, President, Southern Region

woman construction worker speaking with man on site

Commentary by Ray Sedey, McCarthy Southern Region president

As the school year gets underway, many students, especially those at the middle and high school levels, will show interest in certain areas of study. How those students are encouraged to pursue their interests may vary based on their teachers, parents, age and gender. As the leader of a commercial construction company that hires those that study science, technology, engineering and math-related fields, I have the vantage point of how this plays out in the real world. The construction industry is heavily comprised of males, and that needs to change.

Females comprise 47 percent of the country's work force; however, that rate is just 9 percent in the construction industry (including administration, human resources and marketing), and just under 3 percent in production roles, according to the National Association of Women in Construction. As the industry faces a skilled workforce shortage, it is imperative to actively address the lack of female talent in construction.

At McCarthy Building Companies, we've established the McCarthy Partnership for Women, a national resource group designed to create a company culture where women are supported in their careers, and to more effectively promote the industry to the future workforce. Our goal is to recruit and retain top females in the marketplace and empower them to succeed. However, we can only hire from the labor pool available - which is small.

To address this challenge, we and others in our industry are working with area schools to introduce the variety of great job opportunities available in construction, starting as early as middle school and continuing through high school and college via various outreach and mentoring programs. We believe that early discussion with families about career opportunities in construction needs to happen to help dispel the myth that women cannot be successful in our industry. There are a variety of jobs in engineering, estimating, and technology (such as virtual reality), to name a few, and we want to ensure that all students know opportunities are there for them, regardless of gender.

School districts, educators, counselors and parents must encourage all students to explore STEM, and introduce them to a variety of career opportunities, including those in construction. Some students may be interested in learning trades, which is an area of huge need right now. Others may head to college for engineering, construction science and construction technology-related degrees. There are career opportunities for both of those tracks in the construction industry.

A perception exists that construction careers are limited to swinging a hammer, that construction isn't a place for women, or that women working in construction can't be fulfilled or have families. As an industry, we must work together to dispel these misconceptions. Construction is an exciting and ever-changing industry; every day and every project is different. A career in construction brings opportunity for personal pride in what you are building - whether hospital, skyscraper, port or bridge. It also offers the chance, starting on day one, to problem-solve and have a significant impact on the future of our communities.

The recruitment, retention and development of women into the construction industry is an opportunity that we can't afford to ignore. The importance of encouraging females to consider the opportunities in our busy industry should be explored by educators, parents and young people. Exciting and rewarding careers await.

Ray Sedey is the Southern Region President for McCarthy Building Companies. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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