The construction industry continues to battle a labor shortage in an incredibly competitive market nationwide. Total job openings in construction as of July 2022 are 375,000 (this number hit 440,000 in April, the highest in Bureau of Labor Statistics records going back to 2001). On top of a general shortage, the construction industry also has a generational problem. Skilled tradespersons are retiring faster than they can be replaced. Construction unemployment is low, below 4%, and with industry demand rising, we can’t keep up. These workforce shortages, alongside current economic conditions continue to drive construction cost increases.


Women represent 47% of the general workforce in the United States, but only a small percentage of the construction workforce. For the first time since data collection began in 1964, the number of women employed topped 1 million this year, representing a 14.1% share of the industry. This is a milestone worthy of celebration, but we cannot abandon our focus on women. Recruiting and retaining women in the construction industry is an opportunity that we can’t afford to ignore. This 1 million is still comprised of mostly administrative and management roles, with significantly less women (4%) represented in the trades. A focus on women in construction is a great opportunity to regain ground lost by women in the workforce during the pandemic. Construction jobs pay better than other jobs with similar education requirements, and the gender pay gap in construction is lower than all other industries.


McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. (an employee-owned company) recognizes the value of a diverse workforce, and the importance of looking for Top Talent in populations that have been historically under-represented. The McCarthy Partnership for Women is an employee resource group specifically focused on recruiting, retaining, and developing top female talent in the construction industry. The Partnership for Women operates slightly differently across the country, to meet the needs of each region, but generally, is focused on five areas to help women succeed at McCarthy and in the industry: personal and professional development, internal and external networking, communication and awareness, recruiting, and outreach. 

McCarthy turns to its employee-partners and its data to develop programming that has helped steadily increase the company’s female headcount and the percentage of women in management roles over the last several years. So many times, important relationships and business deals are forged outside of the office, say, on a golf course with clients. We heard that some of our teammates were intimidated to participate if they were invited at all. So, we designed an event to expose those employees to the game, teach the rules, the etiquette, the dress code, and give them a chance to practice, and network with other employees who played often. The “Golf Primer” has been replicated in many of our offices around the country, and we have an entire new crop of female employees who help round out our teams. 


Similarly, when we heard that some folks felt uncomfortable when networking, we shared our best tips and tricks, and then designed some internal networking events for practice. Across the country, we have hosted many client facing networking events, often focused on connected McCarthy’s female population to high-powered women working for our clients, and in the industry. 


We continuously evaluate our recruiting practices: who we were sending to recruit and where we were sending them. Ensuring that we send a diverse team to represent a real cross-section of our employees at every recruiting event has helped us to connect better with all kinds of candidates. For example, we have involved more women in recruiting, both for college graduates and skilled labor positions. We also recognize the importance of early career education. We invest time in the education of students and their parents about the variety of high paying opportunities in the construction industry—with or without a college degree. 


We believe that early discussions about career opportunities in construction need to happen to help dispel the myth that women cannot be successful in our industry. A pervasive misconception exists that construction careers aren’t for women. The truth is that there are a wide variety of career options, both in the trades and in project management and support roles.  

“Having candid conversations regarding gender with senior superintendents on projects, that were facilitated through McCarthy Partnership for Women development activities, helped me to see what my role should be as we focus on forging jobsite partnerships. I find that my confidence, knowledge, and expertise are enough to convey any message that I need to convey to the field.”

Cecia Saenz, project safety manager,
Ismaili Center Houston 

“It’s refreshing to see McCarthy focus on recruiting a diverse group of people who bring a wide range of experience and perspective to our company. This leads to a diverse group of role models in leadership positions who our entry-level partners can look up to. I’m proud to be a part of this group and a mentor to our partners in the Marine division!” 

Sarah Johnson, sr. field engineer,
oversees field engineering and surveying crews on all marine projects 

“The day I walked out of my first career fair marked a course-altering event in my life, and I owe it to the two women who represented construction with intellectual articulation and confidence. Overall, I’d say the women and men in this industry have welcomed and encouraged me to take greater strides in my development. McCarthy Partnership for Women has been a great source of support.” 

Valeria Zebrowski, sr. project engineer,
Port Houston Bayport Terminal Wharf 6 

For More Information:

For more about the McCarthy Partnership for Women, visit

Modern Contractor Solutions, October 2022
Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to the FREE Digital Edition of Modern Contractor Solutions magazine.