Over the course of the first 10 months of the pandemic, women lost more jobs than men—a net of 5.4 million jobs during the recession—nearly 1 million more job losses than men. Access to childcare and other barriers left many women struggling to make it work. What’s more, a January report from the Texas Workforce Commission indicates that of the new entrants into Texas’ labor force, women were the predominant group over men in terms of number (23,400 vs. 16,500 in December 2020 alone).
With many sectors in turmoil, and Texas experiencing a building boom, many women have reason to look to a less likely industry: commercial construction. The opportunities are plentiful, growth potential promising and the pay more equitable. And women should not be daunted by the prototypical image of burly construction workers. The reality is women in construction are a growing force in Texas and across the region.
Construction was a natural fit for me; my Dad was a cabinet maker, and my older brothers also joined the industry. I started at a small company in Corpus Christi and worked my way up to JE Dunn. While I’ve never encountered a specific obstacle as a woman in the field, I did learn early on that gaining the respect of my mainly male colleagues was important. Being calm, patient and being humble enough to ask questions when I didn’t know the answer has gone a long way.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10.9% of construction professionals nationally are women. Naturally, this does not represent the general population and means that the commercial construction industry isn’t yet taking full advantage of the skills, perspectives and experiences the workforce has to offer.
In 2017, women held nearly 136,000 jobs in construction in Texas. Those jobs generate additional business activities that ultimately support about 162,000 jobs in all other industries of the Texas economy. Women account for 19 percent of the state’s 726,000 jobs in this sector.
Of all sectors of the Texas economy, construction has the lowest share of jobs held by women, although their concentration in these jobs is higher in Texas than in the nation—nearly double the national average.
I’d love to see more women join this field. In my work with the National Association of Women in Construction, I’ve had the opportunity to share my experiences with many young women. I tell them that while this is a rewarding career, those with a deep passion for it stick around the longest. That passion can be fueled at an early age with things like STEM education, building blocks and even playing in the mud. I’ve always believed that the mud is half the fun!
While many think of construction as a traditional industry, it is actually much more. Modern companies have embraced technology, diversity and inclusion initiatives, have flexible employment arrangements and, what’s more, the pay is better and far more equitable than many industries. Whereas women in the U.S. earn on average 81.1 percent of what men make, the gender pay gap is significantly smaller in construction occupations, with women earning on average 99.1 percent of what men make.
This week (March 7 – 14), is Women in Construction Week an annual campaign to highlight women as an important and growing component of the construction industry. It is an important time to raise awareness of the opportunities available for women in the construction industry. For women and young girls considering new possibilities whether they are graduating, re-entering the workforce or changing careers, construction can open a whole new world of opportunity while contributing to building the places and spaces that make our economies thrive.
 “All of the Jobs Lost in December Were Women’s Jobs”, Washington: National Women’s Law Center, 2021
 Texas Workforce Commission’s Texas Labor Market Review, January 2021
 U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
 U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Table 19