With the recent dinner and announcement of the Connected World WoM2M winners and the upcoming announcement of the Women in Construction winners in August, as part of the annual Constructech Technology Days event, the role of women in the labor force has been on our minds quite a bit lately here at Specialty Publishing Media.

There has been so much talk about the rapid rise and fall of the role of women in different industries, including construction, that we thought we would go directly to the source—the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that is—to see how women in the workforce has evolved.

Here’s what the numbers show. There was a rapid rise of women in the labor force, in all industries, between the 1960s through the 1980s, and then began to slow in the 1990s. It reached a peak of 60% in 1999, at which point the number of women in the workforce began to decline.

A big factor here is that from January 2013 to December 2015, 3.2 million workers age 20 and older were displaced from jobs they had held for at least 3 years, with women accounting for 44% of those displaced. Still, labor market outcomes were similar for displaced women and men; women were about as likely to have found a new job in January 2016.

Now, let’s take a bit of a deeper dive by industry. The BLS says the top four industries employing women in 1964 were manufacturing; trade, transportation, and utilities, local government; and education and health services.

Today, women account for more than half of all workers within several industries such as financial, education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and other services. However, they are still underrepresented in many industries including agriculture, mining, construction, and more. In fact, construction is one of the most underrepresented, holding steady at that 9% of women in the industry.

It is a shame really. Construction offers opportunities for innovation, pay advancement, and leadership. The industry needs it; in fact, it is begging for it. I sat in a session about Women in Construction at the Construction Safety Conference at Drury Lane in Oak Brook, Ill., earlier this year, and the general sentiment was that the industry has made several steps in the past couple of decades to be more inclusive of women, but it still has a ways to go. Certainly, improvements can always be made in terms of safety gear fitting more properly and designated bathrooms for women on the jobsite, but it is generally a good industry to work in.

As August approaches, it will be exciting to hear the stories of the women who are working in the construction industry today. These are women who have rose above and overcome to do extraordinary things for the construction industry. Hopefully, their stories will inspire others to do the same.

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Laura Black
Laura Blackeditor