As the landscape of our city is changing, so is the landscape of the builders behind each of these projects. In the last five years, a shift in the construction industry has been taking place. Viewed traditionally as a male-dominated field, the number of women in executive roles, managing projects, and in craft worker roles has slowly been increasing. When you walk onto a construction project today, you will most likely find women working alongside men.
Women are now integrated across all facets of a construction project from project engineers to superintendents and laborers to electricians. At Mortenson, 34 percent of our workforce is women and nearly 10 percent of our craft workers are women.
Held this year from March 4-10, Women in Construction Week highlights women as an integral part of the construction industry as well as raises awareness of the opportunities available for women in the industry.
Fostering collaboration and camaraderie across all levels of an organization to engage team members and build an inclusive and diverse culture is essential to the success of any organization. By taking on barriers to entry head on, we are creating a work environment that better supports all team members, especially women. Likewise, we are building a team that resembles the communities we work in and the customers we work for.
The journey for women in construction begins long before they enter the workforce. Exposure to career pathways is essential. Outreach in elementary, middle, and high schools is paramount to steering women into construction careers. Programs like Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, MMAC’s COSBE Be the Spark Business tours, or STEM Future City Competitions plant the seeds of possibilities. Taking it one step further, programs like Mortenson’s TechTerns expose inner city youth to construction through multi-year, multiple-site visit programs where they learn different aspects of the architectural, engineering, and construction industry through hands-on activities. Each of these programs allows for career exploration for students with the end goal of filling the talent pipeline in the industry.
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Once in the industry, employers must provide opportunities for mentorship and continued growth for women. Culture shifts are not easy. Recognizing that we need to have an inclusive environment in order to have a diverse workplace, Mortenson provides inclusive coaching and training for all team members. We are also changing the way we recruit, so we can draw from a more diverse talent pool. Two years ago, Mortenson started our Women Advancing Mortenson affinity group, which has gained a lot of traction. It allowed us to start dialogues on tough subjects like unconscious bias and micro inequities.
The future of the construction industry is dependent on increasing our pipeline of qualified workers, especially women entering the industry – both in management and craft worker roles. Breaking down the stereotype of construction as a male-dominated field, exposing girls to construction careers, and ensuring an inclusive environment are all essential to continued industry growth. During Women in Construction week we celebrate women working throughout our organization and raise awareness on the vast career opportunities potential in the industry.
Angela Brzowski is the corporate market leader for M. A. Mortenson Company's Wisconsin operations.