Encouraging women to choose the construction industry; remember to focus on the practical


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Encouraging women to choose construction careers has become an increasingly important focus for the industry. BuildForce Canada estimates that tradeswomen currently account for less than 5% of workers employed in direct on-site trades and occupations, where demand for workers is greatest. While it’s important to implement effective outreach and recruiting strategies, and create respectful and welcoming workplaces, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the very practical — for example, does your workplace offer personal protective equipment (PPE) that fits women?

PPE equipment
As we approach 2020, it’s surprising that a lot of construction clothing and safety gear is still designed exclusively for men. Women often get by wearing smaller sizes, enduring items that don’t really fit. That not only makes a workday less comfortable but can also affect productivity and safety.

Take the standard coverall, which doesn’t take a woman’s shape into consideration. Loose clothing can get snagged, make it more difficult to negotiate a construction site or fail to provide adequate protection against hazards. Most coveralls are designed to allow men to take a quick bathroom break. For women, taking that same bathroom break often means having to remove most of the garment. Coveralls are now being designed for women to make bathroom breaks easier — they should have access to them.

Poorly sized construction helmets are less likely to stay on. Gloves need to fit fingers to offer dexterity and cinch around wrists to keep hands safe. Goggles need to provide full protection for a more slender face, or particles can enter around either side. Safety shoes and work boots need to fit properly to allow mobility and provide maximum foot protection. Fall protection harnesses need to fit to offer adequate protection during a fall.

woman construciton worker
Providing women with equipment and clothing that functions and fits shouldn’t be considered an employment incentive, any more than providing men with effective PPE can be considered an employment perk. But proactively providing women with a range of construction equipment that’s both comfortable and functional can go a long way to welcoming women into your workplace — and helping to ensure they want to stay. 

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by Klayton Goncalves, Senior Economist, BuildForce Canada