Washington, D.C. — A new analysis from the Center for American Progress examines how the bipartisan infrastructure bill could be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to expand women’s access to construction jobs.
Construction workers are uniquely well-compensated compared with workers in women-dominated occupations with similar educational requirements, such as child care workers, cashiers, waitstaff, and administrative assistants. In fact, most construction jobs pay wages higher than those earned by a typical salaried worker. While the construction industry has historically been dominated by men, especially white men, women who can access the industry make 94.3 percent of what men make—a gender pay gap lower than in all other industries.
The Biden administration’s proposed investments in women-dominated industries such as home health care are critical to raising women’s wages and benefits. Women must also have equal access to quality construction jobs. Because the bipartisan infrastructure bill could generate as many as 11 million new construction jobs, if women hold even 10 percent of jobs created by the bill, more than 1 million women will earn family-sustaining wages and benefits over the next 10 years. In the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, women are recovering jobs in construction more quickly than they are in other industries. But in “Infrastructure Bill Must Create Pathways for Women To Enter Construction Trades,” Marina Zhavoronkova and Rose Khattar argue that the government must still take proactive steps to ensure that women are able to benefit from the boom in construction jobs the bipartisan infrastructure bill would create, including:
- The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in the Department of Labor must set up-to-date projectwide participation goals for work hours for women, women of color, and people of color that accurately reflect and address current workforce disparities.
- Contractors bidding on infrastructure funds should include a recruitment and diversity plan as part of any proposal.
- Regulators should monitor progress toward diversity goals and regularly convene contractors to review progress and problem-solve through a vehicle such as an Access and Opportunity Committee.
- Legislators and the Biden administration should ensure agencies have sufficient capacity to conduct compliance reviews and enact punitive measures where necessary.
- Federal and state education and labor agencies should create diverse pipelines into the industry by setting clear recruitment and participation goals for career and technical education construction programs to increase the number of girls considering trades at a young age and by increasing funding for pre-apprenticeship programs.
- Lawmakers should increase access to funding for work-enabling supports such as child care and transportation to better enable women to access the industry.
- Lawmakers should establish funding for advocacy and professional support groups that explicitly support women in trades. To increase retention—and thus encourage more women to join the profession—women need colleagues, friends, and advocates to break through the barriers that keep them out in the first place.
“Women, and women of color in particular, have disproportionately lost jobs during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Zhavoronkova, senior fellow for workforce development at CAP. “Creating policies that ensure that women, and especially women of color, are able to access good-paying construction jobs will be an important step in creating a more equitable recovery.”
Read the column: “Infrastructure Bill Must Create Pathways for Women To Enter Construction Trades” by Marina Zhavoronkova and Rose Khattar
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