The construction industry has attracted tradesmen for centuries; however, women are equally interested in working in skilled trades careers too. Current and future outlooks continue to portray a labor shortage due to the older population retiring and economic growth, which is all the more reason to hire well-prepared tradeswomen. Through strategic steps and best practices, employers can attract, engage, and retain more women in the construction trade.
Steps for Attracting and Retaining Tradeswomen
Companies heeding the following nine steps are successful in enticing and keeping women in the workplace:
- Make recruiting and retaining women a company-wide focus.
- Create an administrative team that focuses on recruiting women and aiding them to fit into the culture.
- Participate in and award awareness training for workers.
- Execute a mentorship program.
- Design a work plan with clear goals, timelines, and performance indicators to recruit and retain women.
- Communicate the strategy and goals to everyone in the company.
- Keep an eye on and document any progress.
- Make sure people who interview and get hired are supportive of tradeswomen.
- Keep resources readily available for women interested in pursuing a skills trade career.
Recruiting and Retaining Females in the Workplace
Hiring women isn’t hard, though employers should verify they have prior experience or skills training to ensure the safety of all workers. Employers can attract women to the construction trade by clearly stating they are serious about hiring women. They can also use photos of current women (not stock images) in their organization in promotional material. Place promotional material in places women visit, like trade schools, community bulletin boards, and fitness centers.
It is cheaper for an organization to keep employees versus hire them. Unfortunately, data shows more women leave the construction sector than men. The main reason for this turnover is not due to a lack of skill but instead, women having a hard time fitting into the workplace culture dominated by men. Women don’t want special treatment; they want to blend in. Help keep women in the construction trade by looking out for these warning signs:
- A hasty request for a transfer
- A hurried resignation by a female employee
- Refusal to work with a specific person
- High absenteeism or a rapid change in the rate of absenteeism
- Sudden changes in an employee’s work quality
- Verbal and physical conflicts between employees
- Segregation of a single employee
- Increased near misses or work-related accidents
12 Best Practices for Recruiting and Retaining Women
The following best practices can be of use to employers in the recruitment and retainment of tradeswomen:
- Attempt to hire women with relevant experience or who have completed a pre-trades training program. This will help prevent accidents and turnover, earn the respect of coworkers, and decrease the time spent on orientation.
- Ask everyone the same questions during interviews. Employers can ask the applicant about their ability to perform and fit into workplace culture, transferable skills, and history of worksite skills.
- Understand and communicate workplace culture. The construction sector is male-oriented, making it more difficult for women to adjust to the informal and unwritten cultures in the workplace. Set new tradeswomen up for success by clearly explaining cultural expectations like hierarchy, start times, end times, breaks, how/when/who to ask for help, apprentice role responsibilities, respect standards in the workplace, and humor.
- Create and execute a respect policy in the workplace. Respect goes a long way in retaining workers, and it increases productivity as well.
- Conduct a complete site and safety orientation. Orientation should extend through the first week on the job to ensure new employees are adjusting comfortably.
- Provide safety training and properly-fitting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Because the construction sector is male-dominated, PPE is designed to fit men, not women. Order women-specific attire to ensure their safety.
- Adjust communication style to fit the person and situation. Men and women react differently when frustrated. Men actively voice their irritations, while women might cry when stressed and pressured. Give her a moment to collect herself, and she will return to her designated work duties.
- Treat harassment seriously and immediately. Harassment can include insulting jokes, displays of sexual material, vandalizing personal items, intimidation and bullying, crude comments, and physical confrontations.
- Enlist recruits as apprentices and help them complete their apprenticeship. Apprenticeship benefits employers financially, increasing the chance of men and women staying in the construction sector.
- Be consistent in job expectations with all employees.
- Assess tradeswomen objectively without recalling past negative experiences. Evaluate each woman on their merit.
- Provide She Works training to anyone hiring, supervising, or working directly with tradeswomen (this includes human resources professionals).
Women are Great Tradespeople
Hiring and retaining tradeswomen is one effective way of increasing workers in the construction sector and closing the gap in labor shortages. Women are just as efficient as men in trade skills and are interested in sharing their talents with the team. Helping women fit into the organization can bring the company overwhelming success in turnover prevention.
An Employers Guide to Best Practices for Hiring and Retaining Tradeswomen, COAA Construction Owners Association of Alberta