8 expert tips for recruiting, retaining women in construction

The U.S.’s historically low unemployment rate has elevated the importance of employee recruitment and retention for construction companies across the country. Human resources experts are relying on a range of best practices to entice the brightest and best workers to consider careers in the industry.
Women make up 50% of the U.S. labor force but less than 10% of the construction workforce and savvy construction leaders are using a range of ideas to attract more of them to their companies.
Research has shown that organizations that leverage the innovation of a diverse workforce have improved financial performance. A study from Intel and Dalberg Global Development Advisors, for example, found a link between diversity and higher revenues, profits and market value. 
According to hiring experts, women are looking for the same things as their male counterparts, such as a good salary, flexible benefits and professional growth, but there are a number of things employers can do to better get their attention. Here are eight ideas:
Create an inclusive job listing. The job description is often a candidate’s first experience with a company so spend time crafting it carefully, according to Wendy Zang, senior managing consultant at AEC executive recruiting firm Helbling & Associates. She recommends using gender-neutral pronouns and being selective about the language so as not to unintentionally turn off candidates.
LinkedIn's Talent Blog says it’s important to avoid gender-coded words like “rock star,” “ninja” and “dominate” as well as corporate speak and jargon like “KPIs” and “procurement.” 
The job listing should emphasize the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, LinkedIn says, and call out inclusive benefits like parental leave and child care subsidies.
Reach out. Studies have shown that women often don’t apply to positions because they feel they aren’t qualified enough. In an often-cited analysis, women working at Hewlett Packard applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100% of the qualifications listed for the job. Men applied when they thought they could meet 60% of the job requirements. 
“Men look at a list of requirements and think ‘I can do most of these things’ or ‘I have the potential to be able to do this even though I haven’t done it before,’” Zang said. “Women look at a job description as if they have to prove that they’ve done all of it before.”
This means that companies and recruiters have to be proactive in recruitment efforts, the recruiter said.
“Identify potential candidates and encourage them to apply,” she said. “In doing so, we can bring female candidates into a recruitment process who may not have been found or attracted by traditional recruitment methods.”
Look for untapped potential. Hiring managers say it’s important to remember that when it comes to hiring for construction jobs, there’s more to look for than technical knowhow. Heidi Burkett, senior HR business partner at Skanska, said that her team also looks for people with strong leadership and interpersonal skills.
She recalled a University of North Carolina graduate who had majored in Spanish who interned with Skanska doing administrative work and “getting her feet wet understanding what we do a business,” she said. Now, a few years later, the woman works full time as a Skanska project manager, a role that she had not envisioned for herself while in college.
“It took some work on her part to learn the technical component of what we do and on our part to train her, but she’s been very successful,” Burkett said.
In addition, Skanska has a rotation program that allows employees to sample careers in different aspects of the company from preconstruction to business development to health and safety.