Barriers and Potential Solutions to Gender Diversity in the Construction Industry

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Washington, Candace H.
Erdogmus, Ece
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The construction industry faces significant challenges filling vacant jobs to match supply with demand. With 20 percent of the construction workforce not returning after the pandemic within a booming housing market and the "Great Retirement" of the baby boomers, the construction sector's current and forecast labor shortage has worsened. Making the construction-related jobs more attractive and welcoming to women and other demographic groups underrepresented in the industry is imperative for the construction industry's future workforce. However, there are persistent barriers to achieving such diversity. This research focuses on the factors influencing women's decision to enter the construction industry. Female middle and high school students aged 11-17 were invited to participate in the survey. The survey questions and results were structured to categorize responses into five categories: Career, Perceptions, Diversity & Mentoring, and College Interest. Survey results with indicators above 50 percent were considered outliers and more significant in understanding females' perceptions and barriers to entry into the construction industry. Based on the survey findings, recommendations to establish a framework for developing strategies for attracting and retaining women into the construction industry focuses on the following: 1. Female students aged 11-17; 2. Academic institutions 3. Female practitioners. The recommendations further suggest that early intervention and introduction of construction management in STEM programs in elementary and middle school programs would demystify the negative perceptions and helps visualize and provide paths for viable career and educational options. In turn, academic institutions can identify strengths and weaknesses inherent in recruiting and retaining female students in construction management programs. Additionally, implementing strategies of industry mentors and role models for new female entrants into the construction industry and the students in construction programs in higher education can strengthen the pipeline of women in construction.
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