Ask Lauline Mitchell about opportunities for women in the construction industry and her face lights up. Then she begins counting off the many job categories, the need to fill positions at all levels and the higher pay that comes with a career in construction. Mitchell is the president of NAWIC, the National Association of Women in Construction and she will be a featured speaker at an event in Michigan for this year’s WIC Week taking place March 5-11.
WIC Week is short for Women in Construction Week, a series of events around the country that celebrates the roles of women in the construction industry. NAWIC is the creator and sponsor of WIC Week since it was launched by their organization 25 years ago. This year’s WIC Week celebrates its anniversary with a theme of “Many Paths. One Mission,” which speaks to the goal of bringing more women to the industry at all levels.
“At NAWIC, we spend much of our time educating women on the tremendous opportunity the construction industry offers,” says Mitchell, who works as a director of preconstruction in Oakland, CA and has had a 20-year career in construction, “WIC Week is one of our best chances to showcase the role of women in the industry. There is a strong demand to fill positions at all levels of the industry and the gender pay gap is one of the smallest of any industry.” In fact, the gender pay gap in construction is estimated by the Department of Labor to be less than two percent.
What does she think is the ideal ratio of women to men in construction? Without hesitation, she says, “50/50! Why should it be anything else?” There is plenty of room for growth in that vision. Women currently make up 11-13% of the construction industry according to several estimates. “That’s part of what’s behind the ‘Many Paths’ theme of this year’s WIC Week,” Mitchell notes. “We’re trying to show that there are many paths to a career in construction for women with a wide range of skills or who are looking to learn them,” Mitchell adds that women come to the industry from professions like accounting, insurance, legal, IT and many others. Often the pay range is higher in construction than in the industry they came from.
As WIC Week unfolds from March 5-11, men and women in construction and related industries are invited to take part in a wide range of events happening virtually and in person around the country. Some examples include jobsite tours, networking events, career expos, panel discussions and professional development workshops, service projects, online webinars, career programs for middle and high school girls, and more. Those interested are encouraged to visit the WIC Week website for information about programs near them or online.
Mitchell adds, “There is so much opportunity for young women and those already established in business to join us in the construction industry. WIC Week is both a celebration and an educational opportunity at the same time. This is our 25th annual WIC Week and I’m looking forward to the next 25 to come.”
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) originated as Women in Construction of Fort Worth, Texas. 16 women working in the construction industry founded it in 1953 to create a support network for women in construction-related jobs. Today, NAWIC is still based in Fort Worth and has more than 5,100 members and 118 chapters throughout the United States that provide professional development, education, networking, leadership training and public service.