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Women in construction say there's a need for leadership opportunities, investment in training, and more work-life balance, according to an inaugural survey from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and Ambition Theory.

The survey gathered the thoughts of 770 women in construction across various sectors, roles, experience, and ages to identify ways to improve the environment and career trajectory. While only 14.8% of women fill leadership positions in construction, 88% of respondents say they are already in or would like to be in a leadership role during their careers.

For women with more than one year of industry experience, seeing a clear path to career advancement is the most important factor when seeking new job opportunities. Although 76% understand what it takes to advance in their careers, research notes that training needs to more accessible to women who may have less exposure to construction but a desire to learn.

“While salary is the primary motivator for women getting into the construction industry, once they are in, career advancement becomes the reason they stay. Training is one way for companies to show their commitment to providing growth opportunities to their employees,” says Tim Taylor, director of research at NCCER.

Despite the ambition of women in the field, 72% surveyed have rarely or never had a woman manager or supervisor. The report notes a lack of sponsorship as a critical barrier preventing women's career progression with women receiving sponsorship half as often as mentorship.

“Unlike mentors who offer advice and share stories, sponsors actively advocate for women, extend invitations to key meetings, and invest in their success. By providing exposure to new opportunities and endorsing women's capabilities, sponsors can play a pivotal role in accelerating women’s path to leadership," says Andrea Janzen, Ambition Theory founder and CEO.

For women surveyed, work-life balance and flexible work options did not mean working from home, although that could be a possibility for office employees. The report revealed that 45% of women are uncomfortable, hesitant, or only comfortable sometimes asking for a work schedule adjustment for family matters, and nearly half (46%) do not have flexible work options in their current position.

Considering site management roles and craft professionals, flexible work options are even lower, research says. For women in craft professional roles, 57% report having no pay for time off and 25% say they have faced disciplinary action for missing work due to family or personal situations.

Respondents note the availability of work options that balance employee needs, team members, and project schedules as important, suggesting adjusted workday hours, time off, and child care options.