Canadian Contractor

Kaitlin Secord   

Building a better future for women in construction: survey

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Women make up just under 13 per cent of the construction workforce across Canada, with 4.7 per cent working in the trades.

Ambition Theory and the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)’s Building Better survey aims to “explore the similarities and differences in experiences of women to gain insight into how organizations can improve their workplace cultures and create more inclusive environments for all employees.”

The survey analyzed responses from 770 women from across sectors, roles, ages and years of experience. Among those surveyed, those with less than one year of experience ranked ‘salary’ as the most important consideration where as women with more than one year of experience ranked ‘clear path for career advancement’ at the top.

A research study called Use of LinkedIn Data and Machine Learning to Analyze Gender Differences in Construction Career Paths, used machine learning to “analyze the LinkedIn profiles of over 2,800 executives to assess career differences between genders.” The results showed that women face greater career obstacles than male counterparts, yet only 14.8 per cent of women hold leadership positions. Women in the study had higher career mobility between companies, held more titles, earned more advanced degrees and had a larger professional network than men.


Eighty-eight per cent of survey participants noted they already are or would like to be in leadership roles during their career.

Mentorship vs. sponsorship

Further findings show that men are promoted based on potential, whereas women are prompted based on experience. The survey reports this is partially due to women being told mentorship is the answer to their success, and suggests that sponsorship is a more appropriate approach to supporting women.

The survey states that “mentorship is about giving advice, sharing stories and encouraging people in their current roles.” Sponsorship, on the other hand, ” is about providing opportunities and exposure to help someone advance in their career.”

Sponsorship is further defined as “allowing somebody to learn as they do and being there to support them as they go outside of their comfort zone to expand their abilities.” The survey suggest that women who receive sponsorship have someone who includes them and advocates for them publicly.

Training and leadership

The Building Better survey reiterates that their findings indicate that women with more than one year of experience rank a clear career path as the most important consideration when seeking employment.

NCCER research found that “providing hands-on training elements are highly rated by students for learning and loyalty to a company.”

Along with training comes setting expectations. A 2021 survey conducted by Ambition Theory reported that 78 per cent of women were told they needed to be more assertive and confident – while 70 per cent reported they were told to be less bossy.

Flexibility in the workplace

The notion of flexibility in the workplace is one that is growing in popularity.

Forty-six per cent of women surveyed reported they do not have flexible work options. When looking at “site managers” and “craft professionals” roles, the proportions of flexible work options are even less. Twenty-five per cent reported facing disciplinary action for missing because of personal situations, and 57 per cent reported they receive no pay for time off.

McKinsey & Company and’s Women in the Workplace report 2022 reported that “49 per cent of women leaders say flexibility is one of the top three things they consider when deciding whether to join or stay with a company.”

Building Better suggests suggests employers take a few courses of action to explore flexible work:

  1. Document your current state: Create an accurate picture of what is currently happening. Ask employees what flexibility mean to them.
  2. Don’t let flexible work stop at the job site: There will be a difference in flexibility between office and field employees.
  3. Connect it to business objectives: How could offering flexible work options help achieve your business’ objectives?
  4. Get buy-in: Share your vision with your organization. Equip leaders for the change appropriately.
  5. Choose one thing: Change can be overwhelming. What is one thing you can choose to shift or change to improve work-life balance.

The survey quotes an Ambition Theory training participant, who said “We risk losing women in the industry because they get burnt out proving themselves, focusing on improving their weaknesses or spending too much time on things that don’t interest of motivate them. When can women stop pushing themselves to round out their experiences and move on to maximizing their strengths?”


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