Thirty years ago, about 3 percent of construction workers were female. In 2016, the figure is essentially the same: 2.6 percent. Even more dismal, female construction workers report widespread harassment. A report by the U.S. Department of Labor showed an astonishing 88 percent of female construction workers experienced sexual harassment on the job, compared with 25 percent of women in the workplace overall [sources: National Women's Law Center, United States Department of Labor].
With women generally clustered in lower-paying jobs, the federal government is working to steer them into higher-paying occupations such as construction. But there are many obstacles in their way. Girls and women are often told — both outright and subtly — that they can't succeed in the field. Those who pursue construction jobs anyway are often hazed. "On the construction site, men don't see you as a plumber or as an electrician — they only see you as a woman who shouldn't be there. They give you a hard time to press you to quit. Women are groped, grabbed, and relentlessly harassed ... It'll never change without having more women on the work site," female welder Shané LaSaint-Bell told The National Women's Law Center.
Construction jobs often require the completion of an apprenticeship program. But information about these programs is rather secretive — men tend to hear about openings from male friends and relatives. It will take a concerted effort from the government and the construction trade, to open the door to more women [sources: National Women's Law Center, United States Department of Labor].