Though the pay gap for construction managers and workers is smaller than the national average, women remain distinctly underrepresented in construction, especially construction trade work. 

    Ahead of Women’s History Month and Women in Construction Week — which takes place in the second week of March — Today’s Homeowner examined the outstanding questions: Why do so few women work in construction, and why aren’t more women considering joining the field? Beyond dissecting the data, we discuss some of the challenges facing women in construction along with solutions for improving representation going forward. For more details on our sources, check out the Methodology section below. 

    Key Findings

    Women make up nearly 9% of construction managers, but only about 3% of construction trade workers.

    The pay gap between female and male construction managers is roughly six percentage points smaller than the national average across all occupations (88.9% vs. 83.0%). The gap for construction trade workers is about 83.7%, or 0.7 percentage points better than the national average.

    Across construction trade jobs, women are most represented in the occupations of painters and paperhangers (10.2%) along with construction and building inspectors (8.0%). 

    Seven of the 10 states with the highest percentages of female construction trade workers are in the South. 

    Less than one in 100 construction trade workers are women in two states, namely, Delaware and South Dakota.

    Changes in Construction Industry Pay Gaps 

    Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the pay gap has narrowed for construction managers over the past decade but widened for construction trade workers. In 2017, female construction managers earned roughly 86 cents on the dollar relative to male construction managers. Meanwhile, female construction trade workers earned more than males on average, earning close to 101 cents on the dollar. 

    In recent years, the pay gap for construction managers has improved, but for construction trade workers, it has worsened. For construction managers, it narrowed by 2.5 percentage points, from 86.4% in 2017 to 88.9% in 2022. While for construction trade workers, it widened by more than 17 percentage points, from 100.8% in 2017 to 83.7% in 2022. The chart below shows changes in the pay gap for construction managers and workers.

    Female Representation in Construction

    Women are more represented in managerial construction roles relative to trade ones. In total, there are roughly 58,000 female construction managers in the U.S. and 211,000 female construction workers. Compared to total occupational sizes, women make up about 8.8% of construction managers and 3.3% of construction and extraction workers.

    Across the variety of different specialties within construction and extraction work, female representation varies. Roughly 10.2% of painters and paperhangers are women, but only 1.0% of plumbers are women. Two other construction trade specialties with extremely low percentages of women workers are construction equipment operators (1.4%) and sheet metal workers (1.6%).

    Women are fairly misrepresented across all skilled labor jobs, including plumbers, roofers, HVAC installers, and more.

    Geographic Differences in Female Construction Trade Representation

    Nationally, women make up only 3.3% of construction trade workers, but that figure varies significantly by state. In South Carolina — the state with the highest share of female construction workers — nearly one in 20 construction and extraction workers are women. 

    Six additional Southern states rank in the top 10 with the most female construction trade workers. They include Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee. In all six states, at least one in 25 construction trade workers are women. 

    Beyond the stronger relative representation in the South, the Pacific Northwest is home to several states with higher percentages of construction trade workers who are women. Washington, Idaho, and Montana are the three remaining states in the top 10. 

    In several states, that figure is significantly lower. Notably, less than 1% of construction trade workers are women in Delaware and South Dakota. The map below shows the share of women in construction trade jobs by state.

    Challenges Facing Women Construction Workers

    One primary reason for the low percentage of women in construction is the perception of it as a male-dominated industry. This perception can, in turn, lead to fewer women considering careers in construction. 

    women working on blueprints

    Kendall Pouland — the President of Build Better Ways, a construction consultancy — comments on this, saying, "I believe that the main reason young people, but women in particular, are not joining the industry is because construction is misunderstood as a profession. Many don't realize how far the building industry has advanced in technology, safety, robotics, and general job diversification."

    Additionally, several challenges face women looking to enter the field of construction, particularly women who want to go into construction trade work. 

    One primary problem is sexual harassment and discrimination. According to an Engineering News-Record report from 2018, roughly 66% of female respondents reported facing sexual harassment or gender bias in the workplace, and nearly 60% said they had witnessed it.

    Secondly, the National Association of Women in Construction highlights the fact that safety equipment often inadequately fits women. Construction equipment is commonly built as one-size-fits-all, but this is frequently not the case for smaller women. Ill-fitting gear can significantly impact the safety of workers. 

    Finally, long days and irregular schedules are common in the construction industry. These are often less conducive for women who may have children who rely on them as their primary caretaker. 

    Ways to Increase Female Representation in the Field

    Experts suggest outreach and educational programs as two ways to increase female representation in the field of construction. 

    Whitney Hill, the Head of Business Development and Innovation at SnapADU, says that, “[One] strategy for increasing the share of women in the construction industry is to promote gender diversity and inclusion through targeted recruitment efforts and training programs.” 

    She continues, “This could include partnering with schools and universities to encourage women to pursue careers in construction, providing mentorship and leadership opportunities for women already in the industry, and creating support groups and networks to help women build connections and advance their careers.”

    Additionally, leaders and workers in the field must work to address issues of workplace harassment and discrimination. This may include policies and training programs aimed at preventing harassment and inequity along with efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. Through doing so, industry professionals may create a more inclusive environment for women in the construction industry.


    Data for this report comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau. To calculate the states with the most female construction trade workers, we considered workers that fall in the construction and extraction industry, as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We looked at two metrics for each state:

    • Number of construction and extraction workers who are women.
    • Number of construction and extraction workers. 

    We then calculated the share of construction and extraction workers who are women and ranked states accordingly. To note, though the Census Bureau reports average earnings data for female construction and extraction workers by state, we chose not to report on them due to high standard errors that fall outside of our editorial standards.

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    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Stephanie Horan

    Stephanie Horan

    Lead Data Analyst

    Stephanie Horan is a lead data analyst and journalist for the research team at Today’s Homeowner. Stephanie is a Certified Educator of Personal Finance (CEPF®). Beginning her career in asset management and transitioning to data journalism, she is passionate about bringing data to life and empowering individuals to make informed home buying and home improvement decisions.

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