February 16-17, 2023 | The International Centre, Toronto, Canada
Title Sponsor: Procore Euclid Canada

The True Potential of Women in Construction

Submitted by: Giovanni Cautillo, President – OGCA

I find that the current debate that is raging, asking, “why” aren’t there more women in construction” is flawed in the questioning. Asking “why” is a complete misnomer.

Instead, the questions we should be asking are, “How will the construction industry welcome more women into the field?” and “What are the messages that will resonate with women to want to be part of our sector?”

Let me explain.

The first question of “why aren’t there more women in construction” is trying to unravel the historical facts associated with construction and does not add to the discussion.

Historically, construction in all of its forms has generally been a male-dominated domain. In the past, it was associated with hard physical labour, and the male counterparts of the species were more commonly suited for this type of work. So the industry of construction evolved to be a male-dominated state because of this, and the industry never thought to change its image to attract women because that was not its initial mandate.

Fast forward a few centuries and with the advancement of technology, especially in the form of pneumatic and hydraulic machinery, the need for strong physical specimens swinging tools and carrying heavy loads greatly diminished. Actually, it could be debated that the advent of these machines was the turning point in construction where women should have been sought after and welcomed into the industry. That clearly was a missed opportunity.

In essence, the industry never appealed to women because all of the messaging that had been developed and associated with construction for centuries was always through a male lens. Not once did construction think to change the way it advertises itself to society, and especially toward women, because for the most part, it didn’t need to.  I use the word “advertise” because like any product or service, you need to be very cognizant of your audience and to whom you want to sell and/or appeal. Construction was no different, and its main appeal was to men. That is, until there were shortages in the labour force and work couldn’t be completed. Now, you have the attention of those issuing the work, bidding the work and competing for that diminishing labour force.

But the way construction advertises itself is still mostly geared toward males. This is a remnant of history and still part of the general psyche of society. Encapsulated in an article by BigRentz from January 6, 2022, titled “Women in Construction: The State of the Industry in 2022 | BigRentz,” they note that: “Of all the people working in construction, women comprise only 10.9%. Even smaller is the number of women on the front lines of a job site — only 1 for every 100 employees in the field. Considering that women make up 47% of all employed individuals, this means that the construction industry is only benefitting from about 1.25% of women in the workforce.”

“Women can take on any role in the construction industry. However, they are currently severely under represented in trade and executive positions. Just under 87% of women working in construction hold office positions, and only about 2.5% of tradespeople are women. Women also only make up about 14% of staff executive and 7% of line executive positions.” I highlighted these statistics not to add to the negative stigma and de bate that surrounds this issue, but as I noted at the onset, to change the questions we are asking in order to truly benefit from this currently under represented potential. “How will the construction industry welcome more women into the field?” and, “What are the messages that will resonate with women to want to be part of our sector?”

Personally, I believe that women will be attracted to construction when we have more leaders and owners that can be seen as role models to be emulated by other women. Like attracts like, and this is true in any field, but if you don’t have the necessary people in positions that you can resonate with and aspire to be, then the next generation cannot actively see themselves in similar roles.

The OGCA has some very strong role models in our industry and recently, our OGCA and LOC staff embarked on a mission to demonstrate the true breadth and width of representation of women in our industry. I welcome everyone to view the amazing video compilation created and produced by Sabrina Tropiano and Judith Reda. The video is very impactful, but it is only the beginning of the movement to highlight the role models that others can follow.

Link: Women In Construction 2022 – Unapologetically Her | OGCA x LOC – YouTube

The message of the video and from the OGCA and LOC to society at large is that construction is a welcoming destination: a career destination where you not only get a great pay cheque, but where you can forge strong family ties with others in the industry. Construction is an industry that looks out for one another and supports each other. Construction is an industry that promotes equality, diversity and inclusion and that is becoming truly representative of the makeup of our broader society. And one of the most important aspects of that representation is women in construction.

Coupled with this video, the OGCA Symposium will feature some excel lent sessions including an enlightening panel discussion with some of the women featured in our video, titled “Women in Construction – Unlimited Potential.” Additionally, we are featuring a dynamic session to assist contractors on how to open up pathways for more women titled, “Mentorship for Young Women in Construction.” Both of these sessions will be highlighting the potential that our industry has to grow in this capacity. With only ap proximately 10.9% of women currently comprising roles in construction and with women representing 47% of all employed individuals, the opportunities are astounding.

Enjoy our video and remember to sign up for the OGCA Symposium! 13th Construction Symposium – April 7-9 2022 – Ontario General Contractors Association | OGCA.ca

Should any of our members have questions or want to know more information about how they can further promote the message welcoming more women into construction, or if you require any assistance from the OGCA, please contact me directly at giovanni@ogca.ca or via phone at 905.671.3969. Giovanni Cautillo, President