News & Updates

News & Updates

Study Focuses on Ways to Expand Building Trades Access for Women

A new research study looking at gender equity in building and construction trades offers support for ValleyBuild’s effort to bring more women into the industry.

The study, unveiled in Fresno on International Women’s Day (March 8), includes eight distinct recommendations ranging from compensation during training to expanding awareness of the ValleyBuild MC3 (Multi-Craft Core Curriculum) Apprenticeship Readiness Training Program.

“If we sincerely mean to make the tangible opportunities of this training available to all, we’ve got to better identify the real and perceived barriers to such training,” said Blake Konczal, executive director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board. “This Equity Study greatly assists us in identifying and addressing those barriers for women.”

The board – the fiscal agent for the state-funded ValleyBuild program – commissioned the study to help identify both real and perceived obstacles that may discourage women from entering the training or the trades. According to state and national statistics, only about 4% of those working in the construction industry are women.

The board hired The Rios Company to conduct the study, which then contracted Allysunn Walker, Walker Community Ventures; Keith Brower Brown, University of California, Berkeley; and Cyndee Fontana-Ott, freelance writer/consultant, to join the study team. An advisory committee was also convened, composed of women experts in construction, workforce development and gender equity.

For the study, researchers conducted 30 personal interviews and 71 electronic surveys with working tradeswomen; women who applied for, enrolled in or completed apprenticeship readiness training; and women who had never heard of ValleyBuild.

“The women in our study voiced their interests in trades careers, beliefs they can compete and in some cases perform better than men in certain trades, and that they are — like men — equally motivated by high pay, good benefits, and working with their hands,” Walker said.

“This study identifies specific and reducible barriers to women’s access to, enrollment in and persistence through the apprenticeship readiness training, which results in more women with solid careers and good-paying jobs, and ultimately more financially stable households.”

The women surveyed identified compensation, assistance with childcare or family care and alternative class schedules as among the key needs. “Over 70% of women said compensation for training hours would provide significant help, including all of who completed the training,” the study reported.

Some women had to quit their jobs to enroll in the training and some struggled to find or pay for childcare and family care, the study noted. The 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. training class schedule also proved difficult for some women.

“Nearly a third of those who completed the program said a non-workday schedule would have provided major support,” according to the study.

In addition, most women surveyed perceived some level of discrimination against women working in the trades. Most of those surveyed saw value in having more women in the program, or an all-female training cohort. Researchers also discovered a gap in awareness about the apprenticeship readiness training.

The study’s major recommendations, in brief:

  • Offer compensation for program participants to help defray the cost of child care and transportation, or to replace lost income.
  • Offer the option of an alternative class schedule outside of standard business hours.
  • Provide stipends for childcare/family care and transportation based on need.
  • Expand awareness of the training program.
  • Provide the option of an all-female training cohort at least annually.
  • Include at least one female instructor or coordinator in each training program.
  • Address perceptions of discrimination in the trades by expanding practical guidance on confronting discrimination and sexual harassment.
  • To combat post-training uncertainty on a trade preference, expand support for selecting and entering a trade through tools such as job-shadowing and mentorship

“I’m happy to report that we had already been working on three of the eight recommendations that the Women’s Equity Study proffers,” Konczal said. “Now we have five additional remedies to explore! We thank all the women who shared their insights in this study’s composition.”