Perhaps the single greatest reason that women are underrepresented in high-skill, high-wage construction careers is lack of awareness and belief that they can be successful candidates in this male dominated industry. For pre-apprenticeship providers, this means that if you want to ensure that women have equitable access to these services, you will have to put extra and specifically targeted effort into both outreach and career education. Despite the added challenges, the experience of CWIT and other tradeswomen’s organizations is that there is no shortage of women who are or would be interested in these careers if they understood the benefits, entry routes and requirements.
Barriers to Recruiting Women
- Limited exposure to and information about trades careers including benefits or entry routes to apprenticeship, and their potential eligibility.
- Less likely to have vocational education or work experience related to these occupations or even informal skill building through friends or family members.
- Women are not recruited into the industry and there are very few visible tradeswomen – entering the industry requires more drive and confidence to overcome these challenges.
- Lack of confidence that women will be have equitable access to and fair treatment in apprenticeship.
By employing just a few simple strategies, you can address many of these issues and be successful in opening up these career opportunities to aspiring tradeswomen.
1. Cast a Wide Net
These careers appeal to wide range of women, from low-income women attracted by the hourly wage to college graduates who have discovered that they do not enjoy life behind a desk. Suggestions include:
- Partner with a tradeswomen’s group, if one exists in your area, or a women’s organization such as the YWCA or other community based organizations serving women to help spread the word.
- Provide education and resources to community organizations and public agencies (unemployment offices, one-stops, etc.) to educate them on the benefits of the industry and opportunities for women.
- Run ads in the newspaper and send out public service announcements to all local media outlets.
- Post flyers in venues frequented by women (schools, gyms, women’s sports teams, daycare centers etc.)
- Participate in job fairs and other high visibility community events, such as parades.
- Use social media such as Facebook and other on-line job services to reach women who are not connected to any service provider
- Involve graduates and other stakeholders in recruiting through their personal networks
2. Use Promotional Materials that Feature and Specifically Address Women
Broad advertising will not be effective in recruiting women unless you make your intention clear in your promotional materials. Women are not well represented in the construction trades, so it is not surprising that many women do not even consider the possibility that they are qualified for and welcome in the industry. Having very little information about apprenticeship programs and the construction industry in general, most assume they are not qualified and are not likely to respond in large numbers to advertising that does not address them specifically. CWIT recommends that materials:
- Contain a headline featuring the word “Women” to get their attention.
- Feature pictures of tradeswomen prominently. View downloadable pictures at Oregon Tradeswomen Inc.’s Image Library.
- Provide encouragement and information about the benefits or reasons women might want to consider a career in the trades.
3. Pair outreach with career education
Once you have their attention, it is critical to follow-up with career education so women can effectively assess their interest in and qualifications for construction careers. CWIT primarily accomplishes this goal through weekly information sessions that help women understand the industry, its benefits, challenges and entry routes, as well as the services CWIT offers to prepare and support them. An outline for conducting an information session can be downloaded from this site along with our aspiring tradeswomen’s handbook “You Can Do It, A Woman’s Guide to Construction Careers” which can be used as a hand-out for information sessions or distributed as a stand-alone guide. Also, available to view or download in this section is our career education video. Developed with a national audience in mind, this video provides an excellent general overview of construction careers through the experience and advice of women working a variety of trades at various stages of their careers. Finally, the program provides opportunity for career exploration and generates enthusiasm through orientation/career fairs which feature presentations by tradeswomen and industry representatives as well as information booths hosted by apprenticeship programs and contractors.
4. Involve Tradeswomen and Apprenticeship Programs in Your Recruitment
There is really nothing more effective in capturing women’s interest than meeting tradeswomen who are happy in their careers. CWIT involves tradeswomen in every aspect of its recruitment, and program graduates and tradeswomen are by far program’s largest referral source. Bring them with to career fairs, provide them with flyers and other promotional materials, encourage them to share information with their networks and be ambassadors for the program.
Likewise, involvement of industry partners, particularly apprenticeship programs, demonstrates to your audience that the industry is involved in recruiting women and that your program can facilitate these connections. The principal way CWIT involves apprenticeship programs and other industry partners in recruitment is through its orientation/career fairs, where they give presentations and host information booths. More often than not you will find that industry representatives, particularly apprenticeship programs, in your area are concerned about building a qualified applicant pool and will be supportive of your efforts to publicize construction career opportunities to women.
This is also an important opportunity to feature tradeswomen, as this may be the first time most of the attendees have had the opportunity to hear directly from women working in the trades, and learning the how, what, when, where and why of her journey provides the inspiration women need to picture themselves as tradeswomen. These events generate a lot of enthusiasm and are a great way to provide career education/exploration opportunities to women and/or kick off recruitment for a new class. A more detailed description of the event is provided in our Orientation Checklist which can be found on the side bar under Career Education.
Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to assemble all the elements of your outreach and career education program. It takes time to build referral relationships and a successful track record serving women, but the more women you assist in launching their construction careers, the more women will come to your doors. Here is a good place to start in thinking about a building an effective plan for recruiting women to your program.