“I was just built for construction,” said Ashley Dowd, a member of an all-woman construction crew, Western Spray Foam.
According to The Oregonian, the construction women used to feel like they didn’t belong in the male-dominated industry and noted that men rarely saw them as equal.
“But now, I just ignore it,” said Jennifer Frazier, Dowd’s partner and another member of Western Spray Foam. “We got it down. We can run circles around them.”
Globally, the construction market is worth more than $145.5 billion, and in the U.S. there are approximately 7.8 billion workers in the construction industry. Oregon has been hiring construction workers at a rapid rate, but the proportion of women construction workers remains extremely low.
Mary Ann Naylor of Oregon Tradeswomen Inc., a nonprofit, said that the disparity of women in the construction workforce — only one-fifth of all construction jobs are held by women — is a “deeply rooted cultural and industry issue.”
The Oregon Employment Department reports that aside from mining, quarrying, and gas and oil extraction, the construction industry has the highest disparity between men and women workers.
“Our cultural image of construction workers is almost always a white male,” Naylor adds.
Naylor believes that women are going to miss out on lucrative career opportunities because they are driven away from fields like construction when they are young. Because women are almost never depicted in construction jobs in pop culture, and girls aren’t always encouraged to play with toys like Lego and building blocks, they rarely seriously consider construction as a career option for them.
The pay women construction workers receive is even worse than the already unfair national average of women, who tend to make about 68% percent of what men make. In construction, a full-time female worker with the same training and experience as a male worker only makes 82% of what men make.
“It comes down to demonstrating to parents the amazing opportunities and income and career paths for children,” said Yasmine Branden, the former president of the National Association of Women in Construction.
“Women have to see themselves,” Naylor added. “They have to know that they’re welcome.”