The construction industry is typically a male-dominated field.  Although there are some high-profile women in the industry, such as Sheryl Palmer at Taylor Morrison, Amber Peebles at Athena Construction, McCoy Building Supply’s Megan Jones, and VIATechnik’s Danielle Bunico, women are still significantly underrepresented in the industry as a whole. Women represent just under 10% of the construction industry workforce. (www.bls.gov/opub/reports/womens-databook).  In addition to the gap in the number of participants in the industry, there also remains a gender pay gap, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women in construction earn on average only 95.7% of what men make[1].

The gender and pay gaps significantly hinder the industry as having a more diverse and inclusive workplace has substantial benefits. A recent study by McKinsey indicated that companies ranking in the top quartile of executive-board diversity were 35% more likely to outperform others financially. Business professors Cristian Deszö of the University of Maryland and David Ross of Columbia University studied the impact of gender diversity in S&P’s Composite 1500 list, analyzing the financial performance of firms. Their research concluded that female representation in top management led to an average increase of $42 million in firm value.  Company review website Glassdoor reported that more than two-thirds (69%) of all executives rate diversity and inclusion as an important issue, up from 32% in 2014.

The construction industry has introduced some initiatives geared towards improving gender balance. For example, several companies in the field have created dedicated leadership programs for their female team members. Participants in these programs are encouraged to share challenges and successes in the field and embrace mentorship opportunities. Additionally, women in the construction industry across the country have formed their own support channels, offering additional networking and development opportunities for industry peers. Organizations like the National Association of Women in Construction (NWIC) and Women in Construction Operations (WiOPS) are dedicated to the success and advancement of women within the industry, creating a community for one another with dedicated chapters across the country.  WiOPS now has over 1,500 registered members according to Shaabini Alford, Vice President of Project Management and Design-Build for Murray Co., and past president of WiOPS.  Even with these initiatives, there is still a long way to go to bring balance to the industry.

At Kahana & Feld, we value diversity and inclusivity. We are proud to have Courtney Winzeler, Esq., as a partner on our Real Estate and Construction Litigation team and we laud her many accomplishments including becoming Secretary/Treasurer of the Construction Law Section of the Orange County Bar Association and being featured on various panels at industry events including the recent West Coast Casualty Construction Defect Seminar.

[1] This figure is higher than other industries where women make only 81.1% of their male equivalents.

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