Women in Construction – Breaking Ground

Leyla Salehli, CEO, Horgan


I boarded a plane heading to a series of meetings with my fellow women business leaders across various industries all coming from different states. A gentleman next to me strikes up a pleasant conversation and somewhere about 10 minutes into it, he asks me what I do for a living. I smile, knowing full well the reaction that I am about to receive. I’ve been down this road before. I am in the construction industry, I respond, and I don’t really do it for a living, I live it and, to be honest, I love it. And drumroll… his response is: wow, that’s very unusual, how in the world did you end up in construction?

Social stereotypes about women in construction often revolve around outdated perceptions of gender roles and abilities. These stereotypes can include beliefs that women lack the physical strength or mental stamina for the world of construction, that they are not as skilled in technical or mechanical tasks and concepts as men, or that women are just simply not interested in construction. Such stereotypes contribute to the underrepresentation of women in the industry and create barriers to entry and advancement.

Despite these challenges, there is a growing recognition of the valuable contributions women can make to the building industry, along with an increasing variety of opportunities available to them. Here are some key areas where women are making strides in construction:

  • Leadership Roles: Women are increasingly taking on leadership positions within construction companies, including team building and integration, project management, operations management, marketing/sales and executive roles. Leadership roles allow women to influence relationships, project outcomes, company culture, and industry standards.


  • Technical and Skilled Trades: Women are entering skilled trades such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. Apprenticeship     programs and technical schools offer training and certifications, providing a pathway for women to enter and excel in these roles. Women with several years of trade experience are well positioned to take on site supervision roles and lead their field teams. 


  • Engineering and Architecture: Women in construction-related engineering and architectural fields bring essential skills in design, planning, and project management. Their involvement is critical in all stages of construction projects, from conceptualization to completion.


  • Sustainability and Green Building: With an increasing focus on sustainable construction practices, women are finding opportunities in roles focused on environmental sustainability, green building, and renewable energy projects.

  • Technology and Innovation: The construction industry is undergoing a digital transformation, with advancements in AI, technology we can use on project sites, and construction management software. Women are contributing to this innovation, leading in technology adoption and integration in construction processes. 


  •  Safety and Compliance: Women are also making significant contributions in areas focused on improving workplace safety, regulatory compliance, and quality assurance on construction sites. 

Addressing social stereotypes and promoting gender diversity in construction not only benefits women but also enriches the industry as a whole by bringing in diverse perspectives, skills, and solutions. Encouraging women to pursue careers in the construction industry and its various career paths, providing mentorship and networking opportunities, and addressing workplace culture are critical steps in overcoming stereotypes and making the construction industry more inclusive and diverse.

During my meetings this week I had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with Sarah. She led a construction company on the West Coast, experiencing the same challenges, and the same responses when asked what she does for a living.  We agreed to try and make a difference, and start speaking more about just how many opportunities we can create for women in the construction industry.