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Women in the Construction Industry

woman in a construction field
woman in a construction field

Women in the Construction Industry

Information and news on the construction sectorWomen in the Construction Industry

In this day and age, 48% of construction companies with over 25 workers are hiring women. Albeit women still solely represent a meagre 3.8% of the industry’s workforce, there was a long battle beforehand to make it to this point. And, after reading this article, you’ll come to understand how hard it is now to picture a high-performing team without these valuable players alongside the men.

Uncover why the concept of gender equality is not only healthy but a blessing for an industry that was severely affected by labour shortages.

What Qualities Can Female Workers Bring to the Construction Industry?

woman and a team of men on the field

Source: Canva

The ACQ website (the Association de la construction du Québec) highlights that hiring women in the construction industry allows for more performing and innovative teams. Said statement is far from being baseless. It’s the complete opposite, actually!

In terms of on-site, fieldwork, a study done by the University of Florida made it possible to determine the strengths and weaknesses of both men and women. Yet, both genders fall in line when it comes to the following factors: 

  • Spatial perception

  • Dexterity

  • Mathematical skills

  • Task supervision

  • Impulsivity

  • Creativity

  • Self-control

  • Organization 

Why Women Are Important in Construction

So, what does that mean? Well, a team’s efficiency means offsetting one’s weaknesses with the strengths of others, and vice versa. In other words, a group made up solely of men or women will never be as efficient as one that’s gender equal, as without men or women, their respective qualities won’t offset their respective shortcomings.

Furthermore, a McKinsey study revealed that companies that employ both men and women in positions of power were 25% more likely to generate above-average profits. Hiring women doesn’t solely improve the synergy felt among the teams; as a company, you can also benefit from a decisive competitive edge.

For example’s sake, the National American University (NAU Canada Online) underlines that the powers of public attention are now focused on the presence or not of women in companies answering tenders. In other words, the mere presence of women in the workforce can also help win over some contracts.

Professional Women Working in Construction: Discriminated Against, Still Today

The Integration of Women on Worksites

Odds are, where there’s toxic masculinity, chauvinism and inappropriate behaviour aren’t too far behind. Integrating women on construction worksites requires one to revise industry values and standards, which are often too closely associated with:

  • Sexual and psychological harassment

  • Discrimination

  • Intimidation

Therefore, the Conseil du statut de la femme (Council on the Status of Women), didn’t hesitate to state in a notice published in 2013, that “in the construction industry, the fundamental rights of women of often violated,” while “it’s not so much the lack of physical strength or skills that restricts women from joining the construction industry,” but “systemic discrimination” by their male counterparts. (Quoted text was translated by RenoQuotes into English)

The integration of women on construction worksites enforces the instauration of genuine measures aimed at gender equality. Hence, the CCQ systematically prioritizes female candidates on the web platform “Carnet référence construction,” a unique gateway for employers to look for new talent.

And that’s not all! To further encourage employers to hire women, the Programme d’accès à l’égalité des femmes dans l’industrie de la construction (Program for equal access for women in the construction industry), offers to fund 30% of the recruit's salary over a 52-week period (maxing out at $10,000), by way of the Programme de formation des femmes en entreprise (Program for training women in business).

Men vs. Women: Does It All Come Down to Physicality?

It’s a well-known fact that men are typically 10% stronger and more resilient than women, on account of their respective body masses. Only, on a gross basis, the numbers are way greater. As such, a woman’s upper body muscle mass is between 40-60% weaker compared to that of a man. As for legs, numbers come in between a 20-25% gap for those of smaller stature and weight.

Owning to several anthropometric and physiological factors, both legitimizing the gender inequality in construction trades, renowned for being amongst the most physically demanding (30,000 strain-related injuries were recorded in Quebec between 2013 and 2017).

But, the reality of it is much more complex than just numbers. On one side, construction trades aren’t limited to physical strength. On the other, men and women aren’t, on average, so different when compared on many different levels. The difference shows that in a group, the correlation between the strength-to-weight ratio tends to overlap when physically untrained men and trained women are compared.

Integrating women on worksites makes all the more sense since, while there are anthropological and physiological differences, these aren’t obstacles in any way. As a matter of fact, some women, like certain men, just have the body for it.

Furthermore, when it comes to the construction industry, you can’t limit yourself to jobs carried on-site, as the presence of women is equally valued in positions of power. And, in such cases, physical differences don’t have a leg to stand on.

How Quebec Increases and Supports Women in Construction Trades

woman on the field taking notes

source: Canva

The Conseil d’intervention pour l’accès des femmes au travail (CIAFT)

The CIAFT (Council for Women’s Employment Access) was created in 1982 and also works on behalf of women in the construction industry regarding the following: 

  • Learning of new skilled trades

  • Accessing the construction and mining sectors

  • Mastering labour laws

  • Understanding integration, gender equality management, and job retention

  • Learning about government politics relating to women’s employment access

  • Gaining knowledge regarding gender equality programs

  • Learning about the measures taken to promote women’s access to male-dominated trades 

The CNESST’s For a Safe Maternity Experience Program

The goal of this program is to support pregnant working women, ensuring they aren’t putting their health or that of their unborn child at risk, enabling them to transition into a different role during their pregnancy and while breastfeeding.  

Should there be no job openings available and, therefore they can’t be reassigned, the worker will have access to preventative leave. This means that she will cease to work and, in return, will be compensated to replace her former income. 

Naturally, conditions must be met. The latter are detailed on the CNESST website. 

Training and Coaching Available in Quebec:

Different programs were established, ensuring women receive quality training, and offering them the same work opportunities as their male counterparts. 

Programme pour la formation des femmes en entreprise (PFFE)

The PFFE (Program for training women in business), which we already mentioned in terms of their funding 30% of the salaries of female recruits on behalf of their employer. 

Moreover, the PFFE helps female apprentices by providing them with the key components for ensuring their integration into a male-dominated environment.  

Programme d'accès à l'égalité des femmes dans l'industrie de la construction (PAEF) 

As for PAEF (Program for equal access for women in the construction industry), its aim is clearly stated: eliminate the under-representation of women in the construction industry. While this goal has yet to be reached, it still goes without saying that the current situation, with regard to women, has greatly improved since this initiative was first launched back in 2015. Indeed, in 2021, the construction industry accounted for 6,234 working women, meaning 3.27% of the active members. And, it appears this growth might be trending, since in 2022, 7,200 women were registered employees, a 15% bump from the year prior, and in 2023, the numbers kept rising, topping at 7,470 workers (+3%). 

To achieve said results, the PAEF put together six goals: 

  • Goal 1: Generate interest in construction-related trades from women

  • Goal 2: Promote women’s construction-related education completion 

  • Goal 3: Alter the rules regarding labour access to promote women

  • Goal 4: Adopt positive discrimination measures for hiring women

  • Goal 5: Support the integration and retention of women on worksites

  • Goal 6: Support training for women in the workplace 

It was already established that the PAEF will be renewed in 2025; great news for all.  

The Elles de la Construction 

This organization, founded back in 2013, offers two main services for women: 

  • Professional integration

  • Career development  

To do so, the Elles de la construction accompanies women for a year, including women immigrating to this country, offering them mentorship programs and professional networking opportunities within the province. 

Their Diversity and Inclusion Program (program Diversité et inclusion), funded by the Sécrétariat à la condition féminine, will be extended until 2025, meaning the organization can pursue their gameplan in promoting construction trades and mentorship programs. 

Josée Dufour, president of the board of directors, and president of Axiomatech, is the personification of success for women in the construction industry. She’s the person to look up to for those looking to make a career for themselves in the industry, benefiting from her must-have insight.  

Evol, Helping Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs

If you want to benefit from business funding, Evol can help finance your project. This organization, which was formerly known as “Femmessor,” has always had a goal of pursuing an economy that was “more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.” 

In Ontario

Quebec is not the only province making strides towards gender equality in construction. The government of Ontario is introducing the Working for Workers Five Act, 2024, aimed at supporting workers, particularly women in skilled trades. The legislation mandates the provision of menstrual products on larger construction sites and ensures clean and sanitary washrooms.

They also intend on broadening the definitions of workplace harassment and workplace sexual harassment in the Occupational Health and Safety Act to include virtual harassment. This ensures that policies addressing harassment at work also encompass online harassment. Additionally, the government will work with survivors of harassment, legal experts, and other stakeholders to establish effective measures requiring employers to act upon confirmed workplace harassment.

Moving Toward Equal Opportunities in Construction

Overall, women’s access to the construction industry in Quebec remains a significant hurdle to overcome. Despite the progress made over the last few years, some obstacles persist, still limiting their participation and development within the industry. To promote genuine gender equality and equal opportunities, striving to break down the barriers of prejudices and discrimination is a must, as well as offering women the support they need should they want to pursue a career in construction, and promoting a culture of respect and inclusivity on-site.

By working together to create a professional environment that’s both fair and diversified, we can truly get the most out of the women in the construction industry and enrich our society as a whole.

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Last modified 2024-06-07

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