MASON CITY, Iowa – According to new federal numbers, about 7.1 million Americans were employed in construction-related jobs last year. Less than 3% of those were women.
In relation to these findings national and local companies and training programs are upping their recruiting efforts aimed directly at women.
“Why can’t a girl do it? Why can’t they be able to do it, what’s stopping them?”
18-year-old Lea Johnson is in her first week in the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning program at NIACC, and already, she knows she’s on the right path to a successful career.
She didn’t have that confidence in high school.
Lea said “There were 15 other guys in the class, so I was really scared of what they would think. I got it a lot, ‘You’re going into that?’ They looked at me like why, why are you doing this? They asked me every day.”
This type of questioning is probably because you typically do not see that many women in construction-related fields.
“In the eight years that I’ve been here, we’ve had 4 ladies come through the program and they’ve all been successful, but the numbers just aren’t there.”
Building Instructor, Greg Helmich has more than 20 years of experience under his tool belt. He said the industry could benefit from having more women employees.
“They have high attention to detail, and that’s important in the construction industry, and the patience to see a job through from start to finish. They have problem solving skills and would offer a well-balanced crew.”
Lea also knows the sky is the limit when it comes to getting a job.
“They’re gonna snatch me up right away, they want a girl in there.”
Why the low numbers in a field with high-paying jobs that may not require a 4-year degree?
Possible reasons could be the lack of recruiting efforts aimed at women and stereotyping.
Lea said she’s heard it before.
“You can’t do that, you can’t carry all of that stuff, you can’t work with a wrench, you don’t even know what a wrench is.”
Which is exactly why Greg wants people to know, not all construction means you’ll be swinging a hammer.
“We need designers, we need CAT operators, women can do estimating, they can design homes, things like that.”
So far Lea is loving the program and is happy it’s the perfect fit for her. As for her nay-sayers, she has just one comment.
“When I could do it, I was like, you saw that, I can do that just as good as you.”