In a recent survey of 1,001 women working in construction, 78% of them said they love their job.
Of course, with women making up a mere 11% of construction employment overall, there are plenty of challenges (Spoiler alert: These women aren’t afraid of a challenge). Here are 10 of the biggest reasons why women love working in the construction industry.
1. The industry has amazing people
More than anything else, women listed “people” most often among their favorite things about working in construction.
This was especially true for a training director in Colorado. “The people. The people are amazing,” she said. “Construction is unique, and it’s a team effort. No one person builds a building — it’s a collaboration of a bunch of talents, skill and personalities.”
While the construction industry can be very high-tech, the people in it are known for being down-to-earth. An office manager in California said she loves the fact that she gets to wear jeans and boots — and work with amazing friends that understand her.
“‘My people’ are blue-collar workers full of pride for what they do,” she said. “I appreciate the want and willingness to work hard to ‘create’ something better and more efficiently for more profit, and not just do the bare minimum to keep your job.”
One woman appreciates the fact that her colleagues are straightforward — they don’t play games. “I love the genuineness of the people I work with,” she said. “My co-workers are upfront and honest.”
The work environment: “Everyone is friendly and just here to get work done and not cause issues or drama.”
In the survey, many women related the daily struggle to have their voice heard in a male-dominated industry, but a number also acknowledged the support and help of their colleagues.
Despite her belief that the industry overall has a ways to go, one lawyer for a GC appreciates the people she works with. “I believe that though we are not all the way there yet, women are respected in the construction field,” she said. “‘My guys’ are always willing to stop and explain the practical realities so I can better advise them legally.”
While many women love the people they work with, they weren’t always so thrilled about the people they work for: Unreasonable customers were a common complaint, especially those “that think they have a right to negotiate pricing AFTER the job is complete,” commented woman who works in finance for a general contractor.
“Since 80% of our work is funded by insurance companies, I have seen customers spend the funds that their insurance provided and then cry afterwards because they can’t pay.”
2. Learning new things
In addition to the trades and equipment operators, the construction industry offers nearly all of the same career opportunities as a regular business, like HR, finance, operations, etc.
For an office administrator in Missouri, this means every day is a learning experience. “My favorite thing about working in construction is that there will never be a day I know everything about the industry,” she said. “There are so many trades to take an interest in and each one is unique.”
A commercial sales rep in Ohio says the industry’s complexity is the challenge — and the reward. “I am learning new things all the time. When I complete a large project it gives me a sense of accomplishment.”
“It’s an environment where you are always learning and being challenged,” an office manager for a Colorado subcontractor said. “Always new projects to keep it interesting.”
Another office administrator in New Mexico agrees. “I like working in the construction industry because it is completely out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I knew nothing about construction before this position. I am always learning something.”
An accountant for a general contractor in New York loves how construction provides an interesting mix of different trades. Her favorite part? “Learning something new every day,” she says. “Talking about concrete and being able to pull together a financial statement is awesome, I think.“
Of course, one woman’s benefit can often be another’s drawback. For a project manager in Colorado, having to “learn as I go” is her least favorite part of her job. “You won’t always know the answer, and the hardest thing for me was asking for help,” she said.
3. Construction is rarely boring
Whether women are on the jobsite or in the office, they encounter daily situations that require creativity — no two projects are the same.
A risk manager for a subcontractor in Michigan says the variety is her favorite part of her job. “Every day is different,” she said. “There are always new challenges.”
For one woman, working as an administrative assistant for a general contractor keeps her more engaged than she would be in another industry. “I have learned a lot of new things a normal office job would not have presented to me,” she said.
A construction manager in Colorado said the variety of roles is a huge plus. “I love that there are a million ways to work in construction (for a contractor, as a safety person, for a sub, in business development, etc.) and find success,” she said. “I love finding solutions to problems within the constraints placed upon me by different groups (management, the budget, OSHA, etc).”
The constant evolution in construction is also a draw for a construction manager in Colorado. “It’s not a static industry! Technology changes, building trends change, the next project comes along,” she said. “It’s great for people who don’t want to see the same thing over and over.”
4. They are building communities
Many of the women surveyed said they were proud of the impact their jobs had on the communities they live in.
According to a manager for a subcontractor in South Carolina, it’s what makes construction a fulfilling career. “It’s very rewarding to know I am part of building America’s yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” she said.
Whether they work in the field or the front office, the women of construction help transform their customers’ visions into a physical reality. For many, seeing the finished product of their work is their favorite part of the job.
“There is a certain amount of prestige in construction that is awarded just by standing in the presence of a state-of-the-art project upon completion,” one project manager said. “Knowing full well that I had a part in building something that will last sustainably is a reward in and of itself.”
Women take a lot of pride in building the future of their community. “I love that I get to leave a lasting mark on my community!” said the CEO of a subcontractor in Colorado.
Others, like the president of a subcontractor in Oklahoma, take great pride in making their customers’ dreams come true. “[I love] getting to help people finish their dream homes and make their dreams come true who may not have afforded it,” she said.
5. Construction projects are team-oriented
Because of the high level of complexity in any construction project, building requires teamwork and coordination — something many of the women surveyed said they enjoyed.
A vice president for a contractor in Missouri said working as a team was her biggest source of satisfaction. “It takes a lot of effort from many people of all levels to complete a project successfully,” she said. “I have not experienced the same level of inter-departmental collaboration in any other industry in which I have worked.”
Throughout the survey, women put a heavy emphasis on the people and the team.
One woman said, “Everyone wears a different hat and to be successful in this industry, you must respect and appreciate each member that makes up the building team.”
6. They get to solve problems
No construction project is ever the same — each job presents unique challenges that require critical thought, creativity, and persistence.
For many women in construction, solving problems is the highlight of their job. “I love project managing,” said one woman. “I love working through the issues to problem-solve to reach the final goal. Seeing the finished product is most gratifying.”
Creativity is a major draw for an operations manager for a Texas subcontractor. “I love taking on a challenge and problem solving until I have a solution,” she said.
“I love that buildings are being constructed or improved and/or powered for the sake of improving the lives of the people who will be using them,” another woman said. “There is also a creative aspect to the problem-solving involved, and I learn a lot and enjoy watching that process.”
Often, the problems that construction businesses solve have a real, lasting effect on their customers’ lives.
“My absolute favorite thing is we occasionally work with seniors on fixed incomes, or no incomes at all, to get problems fixed in their homes to make it comfortable and livable,” said a finance controller in North Carolina. “I’ve seen homes with open holes in their roofs, non-working plumbing, electrical hazards, all be able to continue living in their homes due to us stepping in and working with our contacts to make it livable again. It is absolutely rewarding.”
Of course, sometimes the problems they’re trying to solve can be a source of stress.
“Everything is a forest fire,” said an office manager in Ohio. “There are no simple problems.”
7. The industry is full of opportunity
According to the survey, nearly 2 out of 3 women said they have the opportunity to advance in their company, and more than half (59%) said there are good opportunities in construction for women overall.
“I feel grateful to be in my position,” one woman said. “I am 26 and a project manager. My company has stood behind me through every step of my career. I started as an admin and now am a top PM. I love my company and my job. I would not change a thing except having more women. The women we do have are strong and supportive of each other.”
“There’s much more to construction than just building,” said one woman who works for a Pennsylvania subcontractor. “Many opportunities exist, such as project management, that a woman can bring a different eye and perspective to that can enhance her work and the business.”
For a vice president of a subcontractor in Ohio, the opportunities are vast. “Construction offers many job opportunities requiring creativity, detail orientation, command over language and verbal skills, math and engineering skills, human resource and management skills,” she said. “If you have any of these abilities and enjoy making connections with people while having the challenge of working on new projects, the construction industry may fulfill your career objectives.”
While the majority of women believe construction provides good opportunities, more than 1 in 3 women don’t feel the same way -— and 31% believe they would have more opportunity to advance if they were men.
Still, women overwhelmingly believe that the companies they work for are interested in helping them succeed. 84% say their company supports professional training opportunities.
The CEO of Michigan subcontractor believes the variety in construction makes it a great field of work for women. “There are so many choices and so many opportunities — always something different going on,” she said. “You can learn so much -— and we need some more women — they have such creative minds and abilities to offer this industry.”
8. Overcoming stereotypes in the industry
A common theme among women in construction is the pride they take in challenging others’ assumptions about the industry. “My favorite thing is that I get to show people they are wrong about a woman in a man’s world,” one woman said.
A manager for a Georgia general contractor said she gets enjoyment out of proving she knows what she’s talking about. “Once I prove my knowledge and experience, most people will realize I am the real deal,” she said. “Some customers just won’t accept that a woman has superior knowledge to them for a construction project, especially a complex one.”
For an engineer in California, her favorite part of her job is “getting to break barriers and be a mentor for younger women just joining the industry.”
“Having an 8+ year [career] in the construction field, I always surprise and wow my clients when I speak,” an account manager in Arizona said. “They always compliment me on how knowledgeable I am, and every client always tells others about my work, which brings more clients my way. I love my job!”
For some, addressing stereotypes means appreciating the qualities they bring to their role. A controller in Illinois said she became a better leader when she challenged her own stereotypes about what made one successful.
“When I started out in my career, I thought I had to think and act like a man to be successful (after all, all I saw were men in leadership roles),” she said. “But I learned to embrace my compassion and empathy and feel I am a better leader than some of the male counterparts I’ve met along the way because of this.”
In spite of the existing stereotypes, women in construction are optimistic: Almost 70% say their role in the industry is changing for the better.
9. Women in construction are paid well
Getting paid is a perpetual challenge for construction businesses, but it’s one of the highlights for women in the industry — especially for those without an advanced degree. Only 43% have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher — but that’s not keeping many women from taking home good pay.
“My favorite thing about working in construction is the high earnings potential for someone with my level of education,” one woman said.
As good as the pay is for many, 50% of women in construction say they’re not paid the same as men. This contrasts with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which found that the pay gap in construction was actually the lowest among all US industries.
In the survey, some women saw the pay disparity as one of the biggest challenges. “[The biggest challenge is] receiving equal pay as male counterparts for equal or even more often, better work performance,” said one woman.
Even though this is an issue within the construction industry many women still express they are compensated well.
“It is usually a very laid back, informal atmosphere in a construction office and they tend to pay better than other industries for admin support,” one woman said.
What interests women in this industry is the opportunity to make money.
“The money, the growth of infrastructure in my state that needs construction,” another woman said.
But while the relatively high personal income is a perk for many, those responsible for collecting money for the business had a different perspective.
For an office administrator for a subcontractor in California, material and payment delays are a constant source of stress. “My least favorite [thing] about construction is waiting for materials to arrive and collection of past due invoices,” she said.
A COO for a New York subcontractor who works on government projects felt the same. “[The] time to get paid is unfair,” she said. “Owners on public works projects ignore prompt payment rules. [They] profess an equal and fair table is set but [the] reality is far from [the] truth.”
10. It’s a challenge
When asked to list their favorite thing about working in construction, dozens of women answered simply: “The challenge.”
An engineer for a GC in Utah said it’s her favorite part of the job. “I love working in construction because it is a challenge,” she said. “Everyday it is interesting and things are constantly changing.”
One administrative assistant in Oregon said her favorite part was actually the challenge she gives herself. “I love the self imposed challenge of ‘If a man can do it so can a woman,’” she said.
One project manager in Colorado said she loves conquering challenges as a team. “[My favorite part is] completing projects with teams of owners, contractors, engineers and architects who all work together,” she said. “No project is the same and they all have different challenges.”
For some, the physical challenge is the biggest benefit of the job. One woman in Iowa who works as a laborer said the hard work is her favorite thing about construction. “I definitely go to bed tired.”
For a vice president of a subcontractor in Ohio, she loves the mental challenge construction provides. Her favorite part of the job is “the challenge [of] designing a plan for different buildings and the task of properly calculating the pricing.”