In 2021, the number of women working in trades occupations reached the highest level ever, at just over 314,000. During the last five years, the number of tradeswomen increased by almost one-third (32.1 percent). More women work as tradeswomen than as dental hygienists or veterinarians. Yet tradeswomen are only 3.9 percent of those who work with the tools in construction. However, these trends show that construction careers are attracting an increasing number of women.
Construction trades careers do not require a college degree, are accessible through earn-as-you-learn apprenticeships, and, especially in union jobs, provide good pay with benefits. Access to family-sustaining blue-collar careers is critical for women’s economic security. While tradeswomen have made much progress in recent years, too many, particularly women of color, face discrimination in hiring and employment and experience sexual harassment and gender or racial bias on the job. Women are less likely to be retained on core crews, promoted to field leadership positions, or to receive the same on-the-job technical training as men. Such adverse conditions mean that women are less likely to complete their apprenticeships than men, and are more likely to leave the industry.
Women are also under-represented in other aspects of construction: In 2021, women made up only 8.6 percent of construction managers. For the whole construction sector, including office and administrative staff, women comprise only 11.0 percent. With the current worker shortage, women are an untapped source of potential workers.