- In a study funded by the city of Portland, Oregon, and The Portland Metro Workforce Development Board and conducted by nonprofits and consultants such as Portland State University and Oregon Tradeswomen, researchers found that there are significant barriers keeping women and minorities out of the city's construction trades workforce despite increased demand. The study found that the Portland Metro area construction workforce was made up of only 4% women and 20% minorities.
- Reasons cited for the limited participation by women and minorities in Portland's construction trades include lack of personal and word-of-mouth industry connections; absence of the social network that exposes women and minorities to construction careers; inadequate funding for pre-apprenticeship programs that serve women and minorities; lack of steady work that sees more hours given to white males; and racist and sexist jobsite cultures, among other things. These factors collectively lead to substandard training and lower retention; fewer opportunities for advancement; transportation, financial and personal obstacles and too few public projects mandating women and minority hiring goals.
- The study's authors recommended a regional approach to solving the issue that involves the corrective measures being implemented together rather than a piecemeal approach. Those measures include consistent funding of pre-apprenticeship programs and increased efforts to move individuals to apprenticeships; more community outreach efforts; elimination of hostile jobsite cultures through training; formal mentoring programs; enforcement of contract goals with consequences for noncompliance and more investment in developing a regional construction worker pipeline.
On the national level, women make up only 9% of the construction workforce — a figure that includes administrative and supervisory positions — despite decades of advocacy by local workforce agencies and organizations like the National Association of Women in Construction. And while culture varies from job to job and from company to company, some women who want to pursue a career in the trades, like the Portland study indicated, face discrimination when they try to do so.
However, getting women interested in a construction career in the first place is part of the battle. Agencies like the U.S. Department of Transportation host summer camps that expose young girls to the construction and transportation industries. The agency tries to make clear the financial rewards a construction career can bring as well as how the industry has changed because of technology, eliminating some of the "heavy lifting" positions that have kept some women away.
There is an area where women workers have an advantage in the construction industry, however. The nationwide pay disparity for women is 79 cents on the dollar, but the construction industry pays women 92.5 cents on the dollar, according to the HOYA Foundation.