It’s a Smaller Matter

April 25, 2019

Women in Construction (WIC) Week was recently observed and included thousands of members of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) from across the country who mobilized to raise awareness of the numerous opportunities for women in the construction industry.

NAWIC says the focus of WIC Week was to highlight women as a visible component of the construction industry as well as a time for local chapters to give back to their communities. According to NAWIC president Dove Sifers-Putman, “Construction has less than 9% of women working in the industry; in the actual trades, it is only 3%. What better way to educate women that construction is a viable career than through NAWIC. NAWIC is an organization of women for women. It builds leaders by offering education, leadership, and professional development at the chapter, regional, and national level to all women in the construction industry.”

She goes on to say, “WIC Week is a time to help promote women in the industry and help make the community aware that women can have a career in construction.”

Not long after WIC Week, news from NASA broke of a canceled, all-female spacewalk. The website reported, “Astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were to leave the International Space Station (ISS) to replace nickel-hydride batteries with more advanced lithium-ion versions on one of the station’s solar arrays. The mission was to be the first time two women spacewalked together.”

Apparently, there was only one space suit that was small enough to fit the women astronauts. So instead of a historic all-female mission, safety dictated the team consist of one man and one woman wearing properly fitting space attire.

In our September/October 2018 issue, we highlighted a new company that manufactures personal protective clothing (PPC) and personal protective equipment (PPE) designed specifically for women. That company, SeeHerWork, collected dozens of stories from women working in construction using men’s PPC and PPE. Those women recounted incidents ranging from using duct tape to keep extra material from flapping around to tossing aside their gear altogether because it was so cumbersome.

Jane Henry, the founder of SeeHer­Work, says PPC and PPE products that need improvement include boots, shoes, coveralls, coats, pants, shirts, jackets, belts, head covers, neck covers, undergarments, gloves, safety vests, eye protection, head protection, respirators, ear protection, tool belts, harnesses, and gear bags.

The upside from NASA is that the mission had plenty of female ground support. The lead flight director is a woman. The lead extra-vehicular activity (EVA) flight controller is a woman. This, as the proportion of female astronauts has quadrupled in the past four decades.

Hopefully getting more women into the construction industry won’t move as slowly as getting more women into space. We can speed things up by making readily available for women some of the simple things such as clothing, tools, and equipment that are the right size. And once we do have more females moving dirt with the proper gear, not only are you going to have a safer work environment, the women on the job will be able to work at their peak abilities, giving you a job site that’s more efficient, productive, and profitable.