What Women Can’t Do
Each year I read various industry reports and hope to see a significant change. I’m not happy yet with what I’m seeing.
Randstad Staffing just released its 2018 “Women in Construction” report, and while its sample population (UK) may not be representative of North American contractors, it got me thinking. And since this edition covers women in construction, what a better time.
Some of the Randstad report’s findings come as no surprise to those of us in the business. Women remain under-represented; the workplace can be challenging, especially for women; pay inequality, and so on.
What stuck out though were the low ratios of women at various levels. On the national level, women make up only 9% of the workforce—a figure that includes administrative and supervisory positions.
Researchers at Yale have determined back in the ‘90s that men’s tendency is to use the left side of their brain, while women shift back and forth, drawing on both the left and right sides. In practice, the study suggests men are more likely to have a fact-based and logic-based leadership style, while women are more likely to see the big-picture, have stronger emotions, and be intuitive in decisionmaking.
When we look at today’s big picture in construction, the elephant in the living room is technology. Without a solid grasp of what it is and how to use it, contractors face a limited future. Whether its wearables, drones, 3D, AI (artificial intelligence), blockchain, or the IoT (Internet of Things), it’s almost impossible to achieve significant growth without understanding how to integrate these innovations into our businesses. That’s what the ladies that worked for me did—they were constantly coming up with new ways to improve things, and had the aptitude and organizational skills to pull it off, and the people skills needed to get all of the stakeholders on board.
I’ve found women that I’ve worked with to be inquisitive and very much as any man to be goal-seekers. Often they can see things their male counterparts cannot. Tabitha Babbitt was a quiet weaver living in a Shaker community in Massachusetts that thrived on the forestry industry and she would observe men hard at work sawing logs. In 1810, she thought up an easier way of cutting wood that wouldn’t expend quite so much energy. It was an innovation known today as the circular saw.
Recognizing that there are skillset needs in the industry that go beyond being a tradesperson, agencies like the U.S. Dept. of Transportation have been hosting summer camps that expose women to the construction and transportation industries. The agency tries to make clear the financial rewards as well as how the industry has changed because of tech.
We are entering a period where having access to a skilled workforce may be the defining moment for construction. Perhaps the answer for women seeking to make their mark is in building after all. Building an impenetrable business envelope that is as valuable as the brick and mortar our tradespeople erect.
What women can’t do? Stop seeing the opportunities in our industry that are right in front of us.