November 16, 2021

Contact: William Lutz | | (202) 684-7534 

Washington, D.C. — The Institute for Women’s Policy Research today released a new report showing that more than four in ten women working in the construction trades have seriously considered leaving their jobs. Discrimination, harassment, and being held to a different standard than their male counterparts are the main reasons pushing women out. The report is bases on the largest national survey of tradeswomen ever conducted, with over 2,600 responses.

“President Biden just signed a more than $1 trillion infrastructure bill. That translates into tens of thousands of new construction projects and even more jobs in the coming months and years,” said C. Nicole Mason, President and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “But IWPR’s report shows that America’s working women continue to face discrimination and harassment in the construction industry.”

Construction jobs tend to pay higher wages and provide better benefits to women than other jobs that do not require a university education. The report highlights the diversity of women working in the trades, including many who are parents, and this includes women apprentices, the new generation of skilled construction workers.  But while the industry does currently employ a record number of women—more than 300,000—women account for just 4 percent of all workers in construction occupations. This lack of gender diversity represents a missed opportunity for the industry, which is already struggling with recruitment difficulties and an aging workforce. It also means women will be much less likely to benefit from the substantial infrastructure funding just enacted by Congress and the Biden administration.


Report findings:

  • More than four in ten respondents (44.4 percent) say that they have seriously considered leaving the industry. The most common reason—cited by 47.2 percent of those with leave intentions— is harassment and lack of respect;
  • Almost half of tradeswomen (47.7 percent) report that they are held to a different standard than their men co-workers;
  • Almost a quarter (23.6 percent) report that they always or frequently face sexual harassment;
  • Twenty-one (21.0) percent of women of color report that they are always or frequently racially harassed; and
  • Nineteen (19.0) percent of LGBTQ respondents say that they always or frequently face harassment based on sexual orientation.


“A safe workplace, free from harassment and discrimination is the right of any worker,” said Ariane Hegewisch, IWPR Senior Research Fellow and an author of the report. “We’re only undercutting our own workforce and infrastructure rebuilding efforts if women don’t feel welcome or safe in the construction industry and walk away from or don’t seek out these important jobs.” She added, “Survey responses show that it is perfectly possible to provide an equitable working environment in construction. The tools are there; it just needs the commitment from policymakers and senior stakeholders to use them.”

The report also found that, for parents in the trades, difficulties finding child care and lack of supports during pregnancy and maternity causes some to consider leaving the industry. Among parents with children under 18 who seriously considered leaving the trades, more than two-thirds (69.3 percent) mention difficulties finding child care, and almost as many (63.4 percent) mention lack of pregnancy accommodations as very or somewhat important reasons for leaving.

“Lack of available child care and family support programs are a problem for women throughout the workforce and the trades are no exception,” said Mason. “Each industry can do its part to help support women in this regard, but many of the programs contained in President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda—child care programs and increased access to education for young children—will go a long way to helping women in the workforce, including the construction industry.”

Lastly, while the industry has attracted a record number of women apprentices in recent years—and many report being treated well—too many highlight serious problems at the heart of the earn-and-learn apprenticeship model. Over one in five women apprentices (21.6 percent) report that they are rarely or never treated equally with men on work assignments, and almost one in five (19.4 percent) report lack of equal treatment when it comes to on-the-job training.

Learn more in IWPR’s report, A Future Worth Building: What Tradeswomen Say about the Change They Need in the Construction Industry, by Ariane Hegewisch and Eve Mefferd.

Note on Survey Methodology and Respondents: The 2021 IWPR Tradeswomen’s Retention and Advancement Survey was administered online between December 2020 and March 2021. It was answered by 2,635 tradeswomen, including 598 women apprentices. While the survey is not nationally representative, responses were received from all states and Washington, DC.


The Institute for Women’s Policy Research strives to win economic equity for all women and eliminate barriers to their full participation in society. As a leading national think tank, IWPR builds evidence to shape policies that grow women’s power and influence, close inequality gaps, and improve the economic well-being of families. Learn more at and follow us on Twitter.