In my travels, I have found that women can do any job that men can, including framing homes and manufacturing components. But the ratio of women to men in the construction industry is abysmal.
This is partially caused by the attitudes and mental blocks of male leaders, particularly concerning what they think they need from employees. Physical requirements are an example. Beyond that, however, too many men lack a healthy understanding of how to make this industry attractive to women.
Here is a clue: women generally don’t think about or have the same priorities as men—and that’s a good thing. Let’s review some of them.
The reasons why may vary dramatically, but for many women, the result is that family comes first, not the job. Thus, if you insist on 50-hour work weeks and a rigid schedule with no ability to pick up kids from school or make an emergency visit to the doctor, many women will not even consider your company for employment.
Loyalty and Job Length
You can Google plenty of studies that indicate a man will be more likely to leave a company than a woman. For men, the motivations may be ego and financial needs to leave for another company, while for a woman the driving forces to stay could be a desire for job security and the opportunity to enjoy friendships developed over time. A small wage increase is not normally worth the risk of jumping ship to another company for most women, but to men, it is not a problem. This risk aversion reduces wage pressure on the company and is partly responsible for wage gaps between women and men. Studies have shown that, regardless of gender, long-term loyalty toward a company results in lower overall pay than the salaries given those who periodically change companies.
Communications and Teamwork
When methodologies need to be adhered to, put a woman in charge and watch how she keeps everyone in line and how she verbalizes when methodologies are not being followed. Good lord, I sometimes wonder how women can put up with men’s shenanigans, like how we always think we are special and how rules don’t always apply to us. Case in point: male salesmen. When it comes to following rules, male salespeople in the construction industry can be the worst.
Innate Basic Skills
Research by behavioral scientists has supported that women are better than men at some innate basic skills, such as multitasking and the completion of repetitive tasks. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen women outperform men in the component manufacturing environment. Out on the manufacturing floor, women tend to outperform men in many areas. The same can be stated for many other areas of the construction industry.
I did a consultation at a site where the foul language and behavior wasn’t something you’d want your wife or daughter to be exposed to daily. The client asked: “Todd, do you mean to tell me you want me to hire and expose women to that environment out in our shop?” My reply was: “Are you referring to the environment that you have allowed and which you are responsible for?” That stopped the conversation. Every company in our industry needs to create an atmosphere and work environment in which any woman would feel comfortable working. Women must—not should, but must—have a work environment in which they feel safe and welcoming.
The Testosterone Jungle
One time I was sitting in a minivan next to the CEO of a large company, while a salesperson at that firm was in the row behind us. Both the sales rep and I were trying to influence the CEO. I was telling him why using a measurement called man-minutes made more sense as a pricing and manufacturing efficiency benchmark than the traditional measurement of board footage. The CEO became pleasantly animated and asked questions, clearly enjoying what to him was a new idea.
As the conversation progressed, I could see the salesman’s face turning red and his body starting to shake. Finally, the salesman had enough. He yelled about how board footage was used for decades and is being used every day and that to say otherwise was ridiculous. Both the CEO and I were so shocked by his outburst that no one hardly spoke for the rest of the ride. Why did this salesman behave in this fashion? Because he saw that I was gaining the trust of this CEO and that I was a potential threat to his perceived authority of knowledge for this CEO. Also, his ego overruled his ability to use a proper response.
It’s not too much of an overgeneralization to say that men play by a different set of rules than women. We are always competing. We do not care about playing fair. This is not an issue of right or wrong, and this will never change, no matter how much you or anyone may want it to. Understand this basic tenet, and you will be able to cope with this competitiveness in a healthy way.
LBM Needs Women
Women are in every working area and at every managerial level within the construction industry. Several ProSales 100 companies are managed and owned by women. Despite this, too few women are employed in this industry, and this is not a healthy practice. To attract more women, we as an industry must first understand the basic underlying problems causing this discrepancy.
For women who are joining or are thinking of joining the construction industry, welcome, welcome, welcome! We need you—very much so.