Increasingly, women are entering the once male-dominated construction field, especially in Idaho, a trend that is likely to influence the industry for years to come.
A new study by Today’s Homeowner found that of all 50 states, Idaho ranks No. 6 for the highest percentage of female construction workers, which is 4.2% of the industry.
“Even though it’s a small percentage of the industry, it is still significantly larger than some of our smaller percentage states at less than 1 percent,” Caroline Jones with Today’s Homeowner said. “The fact that Idaho has this percentage of women in construction is an amazing statistic, and we’re seeing consistent growth from there.”
Women more represented in managerial construction roles
While there is an increased representation of women in construction, wage gaps have yet to catch up. The study also found that while the wage gap for female construction managers has improved, it has worsened for construction trade workers in recent years.
“We are seeing some narrowing pay gaps here, which is great to see for female construction managers,” Jones added.
According to data from Boise State University, there are currently 350 students enrolled in the program, and 14% are women, with many of them drawn toward managerial roles in construction, relative to trade roles.
Anthony Perrenoud, chair and associate professor at the Department of Construction Management, conducted a national study to assess gender-related attraction and retention factors in the industry.
“With our students there, they are driven towards project management. Working in the field, however, that’s something that I think every industry is trying to improve,” Perrenoud said. “Companies here in Idaho are really looking at ways in which they can improve their cultures, and improve the worksite so that women are more interested and attracted to the industry.”
Tamara Thompson, principal and director of client services at The Land Group, was the 5th woman to graduate from Boise State’s construction management program in December of 1992.
“When I was going through school there was this expectation that construction is just for the guys, and it’s not a place for the girls–and I think we’ve shown there’s quite a few of us,” Thompson said. “It’s very hands-on and it’s rewarding because there’s something tangible at the end of the day, that hopefully is there for 100 plus years. And it’s not just pushing paper, there’s an end product.”
At Thompson’s company, a third of its employees are women, who fill a range of positions from civil engineering to land surveying.
Women in Construction Week (WIC Week)
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), is an organization that offers its members education, support and networking to help advance their careers in construction. NAWIC held their annual WIC Week on March 5-11 to celebrate and promote the role of women in the industry.
Ami Ostrow, project manager at Andersen Construction Company and member of NAWIC, planned a variety of events with the local chapter for WIC Week. This included a jobsite tour of the Boardwalk development, a reading class, mix and mingle event, and an annual dinner auction to commemorate the week.
“If people are interested in getting involved in construction, or just considering it, NAWIC is a great opportunity to meet people and talk to people. Our first meetings for guests are free,” Ostrow said. “ It’s just a great career field. There’s so many different avenues and different trades to go into and it’s just unlimited what you can do. The possibilities are endless.”