Building a better image

Build Like a Girl event seeks to generate girls’ interest in construction

Posted on Jun 1, 2017 :: Up Front
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Dave Walsh’s latest building project can be a little hard to see right now.

That’s because it’s a mindset, not a building. He and his employer — Neenah-based Miron Construction Co., Inc. — are trying to build a positive mindset among girls that construction can be a rewarding career choice. For an industry suffering an acute labor shortage, having half the population seldom considering construction as a career is no longer viable.

It may take a few years, but success will come in seeing more women on Wisconsin job sites and in roles throughout the industry.

“There is a perception issue we have to change,” says Walsh, vice president of leadership and organizational development at Miron. “In a day and age where kids are told they can do anything, they are missing out on what can be a lucrative and rewarding career.”

In an effort to change the mindset, Miron will host its second annual Build Like a Girl event June 23 to expose middle and high school girls in grades seven to 10 to the career opportunities construction has to offer. Those attending will experience construction jobs first-hand, as well as tour a live construction site.

“That’s when they are starting to discuss career choices and the path they need to take to prepare for them,” Walsh says. “It’s important we reach them early.”

One of the barriers to attracting more women to the industry, Walsh says, is that girls who might be interested in pursuing construction don’t see other women doing it — whether on the job site or in the classes they might take in high school to prepare for a career.

The numbers tell a disappointing story. Of the nearly 10.3 million people who work in the construction industry nationwide, about 939,000 are women, according to data compiled by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s about 8.8 percent of the construction workforce.

Women who do work in construction tend to do better in terms of pay equity than in other sectors of the economy, earning 93.4 percent of what men make compared to 82.1 percent across all industries, according to BLS statistics.

To counter that, Miron also will assemble a panel of women who work in construction discussing the opportunities and rewards for females in the industry, Walsh says.

After meeting with the panel and visiting a local job site, the real fun begins: the girls attending will get hands-on experience in carpentry, masonry, concrete work and equipment operation, working in small groups at a temporary job site set up near Miron’s headquarters. 

Many of the trades they will explore pay more than the nationwide median salary. A plumber, for example, can earn more than $84,440 a year, which is almost twice the median nationwide pay of $49,140. Trades such as masonry offer not only higher wages, but also involve an artistic element that can be appealing.

It’s not just the trade skills where there are opportunities for women in the industry. Women have opportunities as safety professionals, project managers and virtual builders, plus the business side of construction, which includes roles in sales, estimating or business development.

“They can do really well,” Walsh says. “We want to show them they can do it.”

Build Like a Girl
June 23
8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Miron Construction Co., Inc.