WIC Week: Harnessing the Full Power of the Workforce
By Maja Rosenquist, Senior Vice President, Mortenson
It’s no secret that women working in construction make up a slice of the entire American workforce. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10.9% of the construction industry is made up of women and only 2.5% of all tradespeople are women. I’ve written here before, but the need for major change in our industry has become more urgent over the past two years. years and will only become more so over the next decade.
According to Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), we will need more than half a million workers to meet demand this year alone. In the future, the picture becomes more dire. A recent report by the National Association of Home Builders shows that the construction industry will need more than two million workers over the next three years. Currently, 32.5% of the construction industry is over 50 years old and, according to the NCCER, a wave of retirements has already begun. We need to address the labor shortage now, and the best way to do that is to – finally – harness the full power of the entire workforce.
Creating real change is more than just a numbers game. As industry leaders, now is our chance to work together to increase gender parity, create a more welcoming environment for women and underrepresented audiences, and strengthen our labor pool for next generation.
If we want to see change, we have to start holding ourselves accountable for the environment we create in our workplaces. In construction, it starts on the construction site. Often the reality is that women are relegated to “light” work like sweeping or opening gates. It’s hard enough to advance in your career when you don’t have the opportunity to develop the skills needed to take on bigger jobsite roles – operating heavy equipment and using tools to develop particular expertise that would drive to better paying jobs. works. In fact, 73% of women in construction feel ignored for roles because of their gender. Given these statistics, the problem is not just attracting more women into the industry, but keeping them here. Opportunities for advancement are critical to retention.
At Mortenson, we have implemented a sponsorship program for our craft team focused on women and communities of color. We have also developed specific programs aimed at giving women the experience they need to progress on the site. Our Women’s Skills Nights are available to all team members and focus on safety, tool use, blueprint reading and IWP training. We also provide a career map, where we lay out the specific skills needed to progress and help our craftsman team members chart a path to their goals – hopefully as part of the Mortenson team. We also measure how we advance people and how we compensate them. We hired an outside party to perform a pay equity audit to ensure we are fair in how we manage people in the organization and how they are compensated.
Create a sense of belonging to the industry
Beyond adding numbers, to understand how our industry is doing when it comes to creating an environment where people want to stay, benchmarks are key. Mortenson has developed aggressive, quantifiable goals for each pillar of its DEI program. We focus on the composition of the workforce, aiming to meet or exceed the composition of the communities in which we operate. When it comes to creating a sense of belonging, we engage our team members in a survey every two years to understand if everyone feels heard and if we are creating an environment where inclusion is felt significantly. This survey data helps us understand our performance and set corresponding targets, including quantitative and qualitative measures.
Our work to create a pathway for more women extends to our advocacy in the industry. This year, we’re hosting Mortenson’s National Women in Construction (WIC) Week, March 7-11, with programming aimed at career development for our own team and industry partners, as well as resources for allow participants to continue the conversation. on construction sites and with others in the construction industry. Mortenson is a founding member of the Time for Change Consortium, a group of six national general contractors who have come together for one purpose: to identify ways to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the construction industry. . This effort culminated in the first Construction Inclusion Week last fall where tools, training and support were provided to the 200,000 workers who made up the consortium and its partners.
Build the pipeline, together
Currently, only 12% of the construction workforce is under the age of 24 and over 29% of the workforce is expected to retire by 2026. That’s a statistic alarming, but it also represents an opportunity to build something new. By engaging with students of all ages and identities, and letting them see the possibilities of the construction industry as one more opportunity for a STEM career, we can reframe how the industry is perceived . It’s an exciting and noble profession – and vital to the future of our country.
For our part, we strive to share the meaningful careers available to girls in construction through a variety of ongoing youth outreach efforts, including our day of service which will close this year’s WIC week on March 11. More than 100 team members of Mortenson’s Denver office will volunteer with our nonprofit partners, including: Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Denver, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Firefly Autism, Florence Crittenton, Food for Thought, Girls , Inc., Mile High Youth Corps, STEMblazers and Transportation & Building Daughter.
While it’s not just a numbers game, a continued push to educate, promote and mentor the next generation of women can make a huge difference in representation. We see this internally at Mortenson. Women currently make up 30% of all non-craft positions, up from 26% in 2015. And women hold 12% of craft positions today, compared to just 7% seven years ago. We are also making progress at the management level – 30% of our board members are women.
No construction company can fill this labor shortage; it’s teamwork, and we need to start treating it as such. Every company must work to build the pipeline, introduce more people to the immense opportunities available in construction, and create the type of environment where people choose to build and grow their careers. Our industry, our economy and our communities will be better off because of our collective efforts.
Photo courtesy of Mortenson