Today, the number of women in construction makeup 10.9% of all workers in the industry. When you factor in women of color, the percentage is even lower. One of the best ways that the industry can encourage women to join the workforce is through mentorship.
In the face of gender inequality, women who are starting out in their careers have been increasingly looking for mentors in order to gain the necessary skills and experience to propel them into leadership roles. Mentorship allows women to learn from experienced professionals, ask questions, and be candid about their career goals without fear of judgment or ridicule.
The Importance of Mentorship
Lean In’s Annual Women in the Workplace report shows that the U.S. is in the middle of a “great breakup.” More and more women are leaving the companies that they work for, for other companies where they are valued. Could the gender gap in the construction industry be a result of the great breakup on a smaller scale?
When it comes to supporting the next generation of women leaders and helping them achieve their goals in the industry, mentorship is a vital tool. By providing guidance, advice, and opportunities, mentors can help women navigate their way to success.
A good mentor relationship can offer a number of benefits, including:
- A sounding board for ideas and decision-making
- A source of advice and support
- A network of connections
- A boost to confidence and morale
For young women starting out in their careers, having a mentor can make all the difference. With someone to look up to and learn from, they can gain the skills and experience needed to reach their full potential.
How Mentors Can Help Empower Women
The truth about what is happening to women in the workforce can be shocking.
“Women in the construction industry are more likely to be spoken over in meetings. They are more likely to have a colleague take credit for their ideas and projects, and they are also more likely to get looked over and passed over for a promotion,” said Stephanie Solove Chou, the director of Partnerships and Programs at Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Foundation.
Chou goes on to say that if you factor in women of color, the probability of these things happening is even greater. For this reason, it is critically important to invest in women in the construction industry in order to pave a way for the next generation of working women.
Having a mentor early on can provide huge benefits. For many women, when they’re the only other woman in the room and don’t have others to look up to, the “imposter syndrome” can creep in.
How to Be an Effective Mentor for Women in the Workforce
Mentors can help you recognize your worth and teach you how to advocate for yourself in the workplace. NAWIC and Procore partnered together to create the premier program, Lean in Circles, which focuses on providing peer support for women. Working with women and knowing who they are can help them push through and navigate tough challenges in the workforce.
When it comes to being a good mentor, one of the best things a Lean In Circles does is focus on creating strong connections with the women in the workplace. Even a five-minute conversation on a regular basis can have a significant impact. It can truly empower a woman and make her feel included and valued as an employee.
In addition, there are several things that you can do to be an effective mentor. These include:
- Be a good role model. Show your mentee what it looks like to be a successful leader.
- Be available and responsive. Make time for your mentee and be there to answer her questions and give feedback.
- Be supportive and positive. Encourage your mentee and help her build confidence in herself and her abilities.
- Be honest and candid. Give your mentee honest feedback, both positive and constructive, so she can learn and grow from it.
- Be patient. Mentorship is a long-term commitment. Do not expect results overnight but trust that the process will pay off in the end if you stick with it.
- Listen. Allow your mentee to express her thoughts and feelings without interruption or judgment. Creating a safe space where women feel empowered to speak freely is crucial, especially in the construction workforce.
- Ask questions. Ask questions that allow your mentee to think deeply about her experiences and goals, so she can gain insight into herself and the situation she’s in.
- Set boundaries. Make sure your mentee understands that you are there to help, not take over or control decisions for her.
- Celebrate successes. Acknowledge and reward progress; this will help your mentee build self-esteem and understand the value of hard work and resilience.
- Be flexible. Mentorship is an ongoing process; be willing to adjust your approach as needed and adapt to changing circumstances.
Little changes in the workforce can make big impacts overtime. Small cultural shifts within an organization can help create a more comfortable environment for women.
According to the Director of Operations at Hancock Structural Steel, Anne Pfleger, the shift from “male-dominated” to male-populated” is a great place to start rewriting the narrative when it comes to shaping perceptions of the industry.
Through mentorship, we can support the next generation of women leaders and create a more equitable future for all. By empowering our female youth to pursue their passions, dreams, and goals, we can break down traditional gender roles that have been an impediment to true gender equality.
The power of mentorship lies not only in providing professional advice but also in showing young women that they are capable of achieving anything they put their minds to.
Clearing a path for women and historically underrepresented groups to join construction is vital to solving some of the industry’s greatest challenges, including the labor shortage.
If you enjoyed this article and want to lean more about the importance of a diverse workforce, be sure to join the Foundations for Progress Webinar: The Data on Diversity and Women in Construction.