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Conference Addresses Construction Industry Shortcoming & Opportunities, Fosters Community

Labor shortage in the construction industry is a well-known issue with an often-overlooked solution — women.

The Women in Residential Construction (WiRC) conference, however, seeks to address this shortfall — and its associated impacts on diversity, workplace culture and more — by creating a space for women to come together to discuss industry challenges and solutions from their perspective.

“This conference spans the entire residential construction industry from designers to manual laborers and management,” said Mary Nesper, senior product manager at Fypon. As a Platinum Sponsor of the conference for the second year, Fypon has seen the growth of the WiRC community firsthand. “I’m proud that Fypon is involved with this conference and supporting women that are currently or looking to advance in this industry.”

Beyond strategies to bring more women into the trade, the conference covered topics ranging from business management and leadership to tactics to engage and motivate employees to the value of diversity and overcoming stereotypes. Networking is also a key component of the conference, which WiRC promotes as an opportunity to “explore, solve and master the special obstacles and opportunities that women who work in the residential construction industry face” with peers.

Construction Industry Workforce Statistics

The WiRC reports that women make up only 9 percent of the construction industry workforce. While women are represented in construction sales and administrative positions, research shows they are severely underrepresented on job sites.

The National Association of Home Builders examined data on Women in Construction and found that after the housing crash, the number of female construction workers had dropped by nearly 30% by 2010. While female construction employment has been on an upward trajectory since that time, reported 2017 numbers fall below pre-recession levels.

While gender equality and diversity inclusion are important, there is also research that indicates it has a positive financial impact. Companies in the top 25% in terms of workforce gender diversity were 46% more likely to outperform their industry profitability average, according to research from the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Challenges Created by Construction Industry Labor Shortage, Lack of Diversity

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index survey found that the most common and widespread effects of the skilled labor shortage are difficulty completing projects on schedule and increased wages/subcontractor bids, which are forcing builders to raise home prices.

Addressing labor shortage challenges and effects was a hot-button issue at the WiRC conference. One speaker discussed how she turned to recruiting in nontraditional spaces and seeking out diverse talent to create high-performing teams. Other women shared their own stories of success in combating the labor shortage and creating a stronger, more diverse work environment and culture.

In addition, getting women in leadership positions was a popular conference topic as research shows that only 13% of construction firms are women-owned. Change comes from the top, so this is an excellent way to work on shifting the industry workforce and overcoming steroeotypes about women in construction.

Increased numbers of women in construction is a trend Nesper expects — and hopes — will continue. “Conference attendance has doubled since it launched four years ago,” she said. “It’s great to see this community grow and the positive impact they are having on the construction industry.”

Learn more about the 2018 WiRC conference, which was held September 12-14 in Scottsdale, Arizona.