Although construction has historically been a male-dominated industry, the perks it offers – like a smaller gender pay gap – are attracting more women to our field than ever before, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But recruiting is only half the battle. Companies wanting to maintain a skilled workforce must adopt new ways to keep the women in their ranks engaged and appreciated.
As a member of the civilian team that helped develop training videos and materials for the U.S. Navy’s first anti-sexual harassment program, I can confidently say creating a work environment where women feel safe and valued takes hard work and preparation. You need executive buy-in and a robust structure to ensure equitable opportunities that encourage women to stay with your company for the long haul. Most importantly, contractors can utilize HR software functions to meet the unique needs of a female workforce.
Here are seven ways owners can customize HR software solutions to recruit and retain top female talent:
Your benefits portal should allow you to easily identify areas for improvement. For instance, is your parental leave at or above the industry standard? Does your health plan contribution structure support a female employee covering children? Do you have a policy allowing office-based parents to occasionally bring their child to work if childcare falls through? Do you have facilities for men and women at your jobsites? If not, consider making these adjustments.
Furthermore, women entering the field may feel more comfortable on a team that employs at least one other woman. By reviewing the gender balance on specific teams, you can create harmony and an environment that may be more welcoming to new hires.
In the case of government contractors, the legal and financial repercussions of being found noncompliant with federal contract obligations – whether for discriminating against qualified job applicants based on sex or not offering your female employees the same advancement opportunities as their male counterparts – can be severe. Having digital records within your HR software can help you prove you comply in good faith with equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy and affirmative action obligations while enabling you to address potential concerns proactively.
If you notice a trend in qualified female candidates not receiving an offer of employment, perhaps the hiring manager is experiencing unconscious hiring bias, which you may wish to address. Making these decisions, whether deliberate or not, can result in a workplace lacking diversity and unappealing to female workers.
Accountability for harassment and misconduct is vital to fostering an environment that supports women. It’s not enough to allow employees to report incidents; contractors must investigate each claim and prove they did. Most HR software enables employees to prepare a detailed report and record disciplinary action, but not all use it. Neglecting these complaints and subsequent investigations can lead to legal repercussions in the event of an audit. They can also create a hostile work environment capable of tanking your company’s recruiting efforts and employee retention.
There is a glaring disparity in our industry between men and women who hold middle manager or executive roles. To effectively execute a succession plan that values diversity, your HR software must include training for the next generation of women leaders.
Utilizing your HR portal to identify high-performing female employees and offering them access to essential tools for their professional development – like training and mentorship programs – can help bridge the gender gap.
This deliberate succession planning can have a ripple effect. In her book, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," author Sheryl Sandberg suggests working conditions for all women improve when more women are in leadership roles, giving a powerful voice to their unique needs and concerns.
As our industry evolves, so should our hiring practices. Companies that leverage innovative technology to diversify their workforce and foster an inclusive culture will lead the charge when recruiting and retaining the next generation of women who will advance construction.
Kim Coan is the Manager of Account Management at Arcoro, a provider of HR management solutions for the construction industry. In addition to servicing her own portfolio of accounts, she leads the team that serves all of Arcoro's HR customers. An active NAWIC member, Coan was recently elected secretary of the Greater Des Moines chapter. Contact her at Kim.Coan@arcoro.com.