Trillion dollar infrastructure bill could lead to more women in construction


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Ongoing negotiations and amendments to President Biden’s US employment plan have come to an end, and the bill was formally enacted last month. The plan – which includes $ 550 billion in new spending – is an investment in rebuilding the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

While the U.S. Biden Jobs Plan supports the modernization of older infrastructure such as power grids and benefits various industries such as semiconductor manufacturers and pharmaceutical developers by reducing business costs and improving performance workforce, it also includes a $ 48 million investment in workforce development.

Specifically, this funding includes “a particular focus on creating new registered learning opportunities as well as support for pre-apprenticeship programs for women and people of color to ensure they are entitled to a share. equal of these opportunities ”, according to Fortune.

Here’s what Biden’s infrastructure plan means for the construction industry and how it can increase the role of women in the industry.

What does the infrastructure plan have to do with construction?

Biden’s infrastructure plan will create more than 1.5 million new jobs in the United States by 2035, many of which will be industrial jobs as the number of construction and infrastructure projects increase and demand equipment increases.

At the same time, with four out of ten American bridges over half a century old, there will be a boom in construction projects as the bridges are replaced. Other infrastructure, such as power grids and highways, will also be updated and replaced if necessary. New construction spending in the United States is expected to exceed 1.45 trillion in 2023.

The Biden administration has also pledged to invest $ 50 billion in training programs to enable current workers to obtain a free “industry-recognized” degree and better prepare the future workforce.

How can the infrastructure plan increase the role of women in construction?

The Center for American Progress found that female unemployment figures are currently higher than before the recession. And with a combination of an aging workforce and workforce shortages, it’s more important now to create a diverse and multi-talented workforce that can not only sustain but grow the business. ‘business.

Currently, less than 11% of construction workers are women. When it comes to non-administrative jobs, that number is only 4%, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Construction has historically been a male dominated industry, and only one in 20 construction workers is female. To scale up, the American Jobs Plan will invest in pre-apprenticeship programs specifically for women and people of color.

Although the $ 48 million in funding is only a tiny fraction of the total bill, the investment will benefit apprenticeship programs by enabling them to “make their programs more robust and accessible” and help women find their way. succeed in an industry where they may feel slightly isolated. in.

The infrastructure bill is modeled on the Build Local, Hire Local Act, which encourages companies to diversify their workforce by requiring them to hire a specific number of local workers. In turn, entrepreneurs will need to hire more veterans, people of color and women. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics also noted that the construction industry predicts “faster than average job growth” even without the infrastructure bill.

“The infrastructure bill is an important opportunity to create pathways for women to enter the construction industry – especially as many Americans are considering new careers,” writes the Center for American Progress. “If women occupy even 10% of the jobs created by the bill, more than a million women over the next 10 years will earn wages and benefits to support their families. Policymakers should not let a good infrastructure bill go to waste.

Why are there fewer women in construction?

Just as there are fewer female engineers, the construction industry is steeped in stereotypes that often deter women from pursuing careers in industry, according to a study by Chicago Women in Trades.

There is also usually sexual harassment, a lack of accessibility to child care, racial tensions and very few network connections that are often essential to finding a job.

“Hostility towards women, along with the opaque pathways to occupations that favor friends, brothers, in-laws and other relatives (known as the ‘FBI’), have combined to reduce the number of women and people of color [in the construction industry], writing The Hechinger report, a national nonprofit education newsroom.

There is also a lack of effort to recruit women, as construction is still viewed as an all-male business. The Institute of Women’s Policy Research surveyed 200 women working in construction and a quarter of them said they were the only women in the job. Of those surveyed who were not unionized, 46% said they felt isolated because of this fact.

Since construction is still male-dominated, there is also the potential for unconscious bias during interviews, as women are often seen more as office assistants than field workers.

Opportunities for women in construction

From electricians to plumbers, employees in the construction industry can earn a high salary without a college degree. Compared to predominantly female jobs such as administrative assistants and childcare workers for which similar educational requirements are required, construction workers are better paid.

Additionally, while women currently represent only around 10% of the industry’s workforce, construction has one of the smallest gender pay gaps, with women accounting for 94.3% of the workforce. what men earn. This has been attributed not only to wage laws, but also to apprenticeship programs for women.

Other reasons why women should consider a career in construction:

  • Career paths in construction can take multiple directions, meaning there is always room for growth.

  • You will never be bored. The construction industry is made for problem solving and something new comes along every day.

  • The construction industry needs to diversify and you can be part of the change.

  • Because a strong construction industry makes a strong economy, you will feel fulfilled by the work you do.

  • If you like working in a team, the construction industry is first and foremost about collaboration.

The American Jobs Plan sets the stage for diversifying the construction industry by encouraging the hiring of women and people of color. The bill could play a major role in closing the significant gender gap and highlighting that women are a valuable asset to the construction industry.

Check out other resources for women in construction here.

Image Credit: Bannafarsai_Stock / Shutterstock.com

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