The number of women in construction has hit an all-time high, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the bureau’s data, the percentage of women in the industry has steadily risen since 2016, with 14% of all construction workers now women. Tara Novotny, vice president of Virginia-based Windows on Washington, says it should be no surprise that the number of women in the industry is on the rise.

“The industry as a whole is dynamic, it’s rapidly changing and it has unique challenges and opportunities,” she says. “So why wouldn’t there be more women coming into this space?”

The Washington Post analyzed the bureau’s data and discovered that the increase of women, namely in construction, is largely due to the rise in Hispanic women moving into the industry. Since 2016, the number of Hispanic women in construction has grown 117%. In fact, the number of Hispanic women overtook the share of white women in construction in 2020.

“We’ve experienced an enormous growth of women in construction across the board,” Rafael Villegas, executive director of the Georgia Hispanic Construction Association, told the Washington Post. “Way back when, you wouldn’t see a woman in the trades, in upper management, or even running the business. Now, women have a strong presence in every field.”

According to BLS data, the increase in women in construction is a result of the industry’s continued high demand for workers. The BLS reports that the unemployment rate in 2016 for people who had most recently held a construction job was the lowest since at least 2000. That meant recruiters had to look elsewhere from the usual pools to find new employees, which has led to a steady increase of women in trades.

“Right now, about one million women are working in the construction industry,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said when she announced the Million Women in Construction initiative in October 2022. “I’m here to tell you that together we are going to double that over the next decade to create opportunity for another million women.”

In pulling from her recent experiences touring a window manufacturing facility, Novotny says 85% of workers on the floor were women.

“The feedback was that they’re happy and retention rates are high,” she says. “As these people have taken permanent positions now that COVID is behind us, there’s not that much turnover.”

The Million Women in Construction initiative seeks to build a new inclusive American workforce by bringing more women into the construction industry.

“One of the things you have to take into consideration is that in familial roles, women tend to bear a lot of responsibilities in the household and with children,” Novotny says. “If you’re targeting women for employment, anything you can do to provide a supportive environment that harmonizes career and family, that’s going to be very attractive.”

Though the increasing number of women in trades is a positive step forward, Raimondo says that women still face hurdles. These include a lack of women’s restrooms at jobsites and using construction equipment such as harnesses and hard hats that are made for men. They also spoke about being assigned fewer hours than the men and the lack of onsite childcare.

“It’s 2022 – it’s time to say this is no longer acceptable,” says Raimondo. “Women don’t want to deal with the BS. They just want to do their jobs. Together, we’re going to put the pedal to the metal and bring more women into the construction industry than ever before.”

Data from the BLS shows that Washington, D.C., leads the nation for women in construction with 17.6%. Arizona is second with 15.6%; Florida is third with 14.5%; Washington is fourth with 13.6%, and Oregon rounds out the top five with 13.5%. Kentucky, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Maine and Delaware round out the bottom five.

“You have a lot of very capable women that have a very wide skill set that can help businesses to perform and to grow,” Novotny says. “So I think it’s wise to look at the women’s workforce and understand the unique talents and strengths you get with female labor.”

Joshua Huff contributed to this report.

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