Construction industry is ‘not just a man’s world’ at CD Barnes

For decades, the first full week of March has been dedicated to celebrating women in the construction industry throughout the country. This initiative, Women in Construction (WIC), seeks to highlight the opportunities for women in an industry that’s only about 10% women. CD Barnes Construction has been dedicated to supporting WIC for years. This year, they invited employees’ daughters to come to work with their parents. 

“The biggest impact we hope this has on the industry is changing the reputation of construction. It’s not just a man’s world. Women have just as many opportunities in the construction industry as men do,” says Ellen Frey, marketing manager at CD Barnes Construction.

Ellen Frey

In total, 14 young ladies, from the ages of 2 to 15, came to work with their parents to see what a career in the construction industry looked like.

“[Construction] used to be thought of as a dirty and labor-intensive job,” says Frey, who adds that there are several other professional opportunities in the industry such as project management, engineering, architecture, accounting and marketing.

“As of [2021], half our project managers are women,” Frey says. “This is a huge change from when the industry was mostly made up of men.”

As the baby boomer generation retires, Frey says that there’s a large labor gap. “One of the biggest factors for this is because, for decades, parents and teachers have pushed college as the only option for their [children and] students. Partly because of the old ‘dirty’ reputation construction has had and partly due to economic reasons,” she says.

One of the biggest misconceptions Frey hears is that careers in construction don’t pay well. Salaries for construction industry positions can range from $43,000 to $98,000. While there’s a significant pay gap between men and women in the workforce, it’s actually smaller than average in the construction industry. In general, women’s median weekly earnings are 81.1% of men’s, while in the construction industry women’s earnings are 99.1% of men’s, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“So now we have a vast majority of old-timers in the industry retiring and no one coming in to replace them,” says Frey. “However, in the last 10 years, the construction industry has come together in an effort to showcase the rewarding careers that [it] has to offer.”

One of these efforts is the creation of the West Michigan Construction Institute, which provides construction education for high school students and adults. Its President, Jen Schottke, was a former employee at CD Barnes.

“If you had told me in high school that I would land a career working for a construction company, I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” says Frey. “I couldn’t be happier to be working at CD Barnes in the construction industry.” 

“In general, we hope that we can open young adult’s eyes to the vast opportunities that are available in the industry.” 

Photos courtesy of CD Barnes Construction
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