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Women make up 8.9 percent of the construction workforce. Our industry has an inability to attract women and lack of flexibility may play a bigger part than we’re willing to admit. Changing the conversation around work-life balance will be critical in developing our workforce in the next decade.
Our President and COO, Gretchen Gagel, recently gave a TEDx talk, “The Power to Change the Conversation.” In it she relays the story of a client’s reaction after he learned she was pregnant with her first child. Gagel, who worked as a consultant for a large, predominanatly male firm at the time, stood by as her client asked her boss right in front of her, “Have you begun to look for Gretchen’s replacement?”
The assumption that women will leave their careers as soon as they become mothers is one of many misconceptions and stereotypes that inhibit growth and development within our industry. We need to change this conversation.
Seventy percent of working women have children under age 18. Studies have shown that the famed pay gap is, in part, due to women choosing fields that have lower pay because those fields offer more flexibility. But what does this mean about our talent pool? By narrowing our possibilities, we are missing out on creative, intelligent people who can help our companies succeed.
Changing the conversation means taking a hard look at your company and the way it works. That’s not easy. It’s easy to say, “Well it’s tough to work here and if someone doesn’t made the cut, that’s too bad.” Making changes in policy, flexibility and even culture is difficult, but necessary.
And the world is changing. Try plugging the words “millennial” and “flexibility” into a Google search bar. Hundreds of studies, articles and forums will come up on the importance of flexibility and how to provide a millennial friendly workplace. This generation is demanding flexibility more than any before it and actively seeking out the industries and organizations that provide it.
The conversation isn’t just about working moms, or working dads, or even family responsibilities. It’s about work-life balance. It’s about flexibility. It’s about drawing the best and the brightest talent to our industry and investing in their growth.
As Gagel says, “We have the power to change the conversation.” True change cannot begin until we have those conversations, with our teams — and with ourselves.
 In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 9,813,000 people working in the construction industry. Of these, 872,000 of them, or 8.9 percent, were women. Source: www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat14.pdf and http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat18.pdf