Rock to Road

Features Columns Education In-Depth Women in Construction
Editorial: A growing opportunity to recruit women in construction

The time to recruit more women to the industry is now

October 4, 2021  By  Andrew Snook

A 3D-printed statue of a woman construction worker at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020. Photo: Andrew Snook

Ask just about anyone involved in the construction sector and they will tell you, there’s a big shortage of labour affecting the industry.

This shortage comes as no surprise, as organizations have been dealing with this issue for a long time. 

Heck, I can remember reporting on the shortage of skilled labour in the construction industry back when I started writing about this sector in 2011 (my, oh my, how 10 years flies by!).

Back then, the number workers expected to fill the boots of those retiring was a little over 300,000 people, if memory serves me correctly. 


Fast-forward to present day, and BuildForce Canada is still estimating the number of workers needed to fill those retiring in the sector to be about 309,000.

So, why hasn’t this changed?

Well, for one, the industry sill hasn’t received the same respect as many “white collar” industries, despite offering more competitive salaries in many cases.

This has meant the construction sector hasn’t been promoted as a primary career choice by many schools and/or parents to the younger generations.

Another major challenge the industry has had is the huge lack of representation of women in this sector.

This particular wound is partially self-inflicted, as many companies still don’t bother to target women as a source of workers in the industry, despite the fact that women make up the largest potential pool to draw talent from. 

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic generated the biggest employment losses of our generation, with people from across almost every industry being forced to apply for CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit) funding. 

As the economy rebounds to pre-pandemic levels, and schools re-open, the construction sector has a phenomenal opportunity to fill many of its retiring boots with women looking to return to work.

Many people have called this the “she-cession,” as women have been more greatly affected from the mass closing of many industries than men. 

This is due to a combination of factors, including the larger percentage of women accounting for lower-paying jobs in the hardest-hit sectors (accommodation and food services, retail trade), and women choosing to stay home to take care of their young children. 

I use the word “choose” loosely, as this decision is largely an economic one. Many couples needed someone to stay home during COVID-19-induced school closures (or felt like their children’s schools weren’t safe anymore and opted for remote learning), and needed the person that was the primary income earner to keep working. And in most cases, that was men.

As the economy rebounds to pre-pandemic levels, and schools re-open, the construction sector has a phenomenal opportunity to fill many of its retiring boots with women looking to return to work.

The construction sector has a distinct advantage because it is far from a low-income industry. 

The sector has the opportunity to offer many of the hundreds of thousands of women across Canada that were previously working in low-paying service and retail jobs, employment opportunities in an industry with better pay, and that provides the possibility of career growth.

Some companies have realized this opportunity, and the number of women in their companies is growing annually, but it is a slow growth.

Currently, women comprise 13.36 per cent of the people employed in the Canadian construction sector. This compares to 13.28 per cent in the previous year.

It’s a slight increase, but there’s lots of room to grow from there.

This article appears in the September/October 2021 issue of Rock to Road. Read the digital edition.

Print this page


Stories continue below