Building the impact of women in trades, in Columbus and beyond

We are a region on the … grow. Central Ohio was already on track to reach a population of 3 million by 2050, but civic leaders agree that pace now may accelerate due to projects like Intel’s semiconductor plant and other large economic development projects on the horizon.

Addressing the housing and infrastructure needs alone will require an all-hands-on-deck approach. A recent study by the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio found that the Columbus area needs to double housing in the next decade just to keep up. This growth comes at a time when the number of skilled trade jobs is outpacing the supply of qualified workers to fill them.

The shortage in skilled trade workers is a challenge across the country, and currently women are dramatically underrepresented in these careers, comprising less than 4 percent of the workforce, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. With a massive gap to fill, now is the time to expose girls to new skills and interests and showcase opportunities for careers available to them in construction. It’s a win-win proposition. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in trades are well paid, earning 99 percent of men’s pay. Compare that to the broader workforce in which women earn about 80 cents on the dollar compared to men.

With good pay and ample opportunity, why aren’t more women turning to trades? Longstanding stereotypes, recruitment targeted at men, and potential discrimination are some issues that arise.

To better reach and empower girls, it helps when these opportunities are made available to them at a young age. Research suggests that many girls’ confidence takes a drastic dip at as early as age 8. The book “The Confidence Code for Girls” notes that girls’ confidence drops by 30 percent from ages 8 to 14.

That’s why it’s important to introduce girls early to experiences like Girl Scouts, with programs designed to help them see themselves in fields of all kinds. It will take all of us — industry, government agencies and community organizations— working together to tackle this challenge.

How you can help

Work to change perceptions and stereotypes. Construction trades are often considered to be masculine jobs, and we need to remove that stigma. Let girls know that it is a great time to get into construction and engineering.

Support programs that give girls opportunities to explore construction fields. By doing so, you empower young girls to get hands-on experience and think positively about these fields. Areas of focus can include careers such as architect, engineer, general contractor, excavator, concrete laborer, framer, electrician, plumber, HVAC, roofer, cabinet manufacturer, carpenter, tiler, painter, interior designer, landscaper and more.

Showcase women in construction. Show girls what they can aspire to be. For example, “The House That She Built” is a book inspired by the team of women who came together from around the country to build a one-of-a-kind home in Utah. It educates young readers about the people and skills that go into home construction.

Creating direct experiences, coupled with mentoring opportunities could not come at a better time for girls. With the once-in-a-generation investment provided through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) and projected growth in the region, the tradeswomen movement should be embraced by today’s girls — and those who can support them — in the decades to come. ●

Tammy Wharton is President and CEO of Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland

Tammy Wharton

President and CEO
Connect On Social Media