Commerce Department wants more women in construction

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Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Commerce is trying to bring more women into the construction workforce, with the help of some familiar names in the industry. Several construction companies signed the Million Women in Construction Community Pledge on Tuesday, following a round table discussion led by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
  • By signing the pledge, companies are committing to improve equitable hiring practices and invest in supportive services, such as child care. 
  • Through the Million Women in Construction initiative, Raimondo has set the ambitious goal of doubling the number of women in the industry in ten years. In April 2024, 14.3% of all construction workers were women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That percentage has risen and fallen marginally over the last few years, but is largely unchanged from women’s 12% share in 2013. 

Dive Insight:

Tuesday’s announcement follows another this month launching the CHIPS Women in Construction Framework, a set of five best practices for increasing the participation of women. The pledge will follow the same concepts in the framework. They are:

  • Set goals and monitor progress towards increasing the participation of women on CHIPS-funded construction projects.
  • Build community partnerships with community organizations with a track record of increasing women and economically disadvantaged individuals’ exposure to and recruitment into the construction industry.
  • Develop training pathways such as training investments, apprentice utilization goals or apprentice readiness program partnerships that serve women and economically disadvantaged individuals.
  • Provide access to supportive services such as child care or transportation that will increase retention of women and economically disadvantaged individuals in the workforce.
  • Maintain healthy, safe and respectful workplaces and prevent and address harassment, discrimination, retaliation and violence through workplace training, policy and practice.

When announcing the framework, the Commerce Department said it got voluntary commitments to the best practices from Intel Corporation and Micron Technology.

Raimondo said the timing of federal funding for construction — including the CHIPS and Science Act — has led to a construction boom.

“Many of these are good-paying, quality jobs you can get without a college degree, and women deserve equal opportunity for these jobs,” said Raimondo in a release.

Companies present and signing the pledge include:

  • Baker Construction.
  • Gilbane Building Company. 
  • McKissack & McKissack. 
  • Mortenson. 
  • Power Design. 
  • Shawmut Design and Construction.
  • Suffolk. 

Raimondo called on more companies, unions and training groups to also sign the pledge. John Fish, CEO of Suffolk and chair of Tuesday’s roundtable, highlighted the need for new faces on the jobsite.

“The construction industry continues to face significant labor challenges due to the aging workforce and dwindling number of young people entering the construction field,” Fish said. “There is a critical need to attract more talent and diversify our workforce to ensure we have the resources to build our cities and grow our economy.”

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