PHOENIX — There’s a big demand for construction in Arizona, from recently announced micro-electronic facilities to housing.
There’s also a shortage of construction workers, but women are helping to fill that gap.
Numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show women make up 15.6% of the construction workforce in Arizona. That proportion of women in the industry is second behind Washington D.C.
Latina women, in particular, are fueling that growth. Over the past six years, there’s been a 117% increase in the number of construction jobs they hold.
Jennifer Villalobos is one of those Latina women in construction and she’s the vice president of business development and marketing for Sharp Construction, a women-owned firm in Phoenix.
“For me, it’s exciting to see more and more women in this industry because we’re currently experiencing a huge shortage of labor,” she said.
Arizona is seeing more women enter its construction workforce than just about anywhere else in the country. Villalobos said that isn’t an accident.
“Arizona has been extremely active with construction,” she explained. “Even though we’re talking about a recession, we haven’t seen it on our side, at least not yet.”
Besides the attractiveness of a booming industry, she also said women entering typically male-dominated fields can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. She adds “sometimes you need to see it to believe it.”
There’s a new program to help young women believe that there’s a future in the construction industry. It’s called “Girls Can Build” and it is supported by Sharp Construction.
Villalobos and Sharp Construction founder Tiffany Sharp felt that, as women in construction, they could use Girls Can Build to make the field more accessible to others.
“Both of us come from backgrounds where we weren’t really exposed to going into construction, so how do we create this exposure for young girls?” she said. “It is an initiative where we want to inspire young women’s passions to design and build.”
Their first project – which they’re working on with partners Girl Scouts of Arizona Cactus-Pine Council and Arizona State University – is the Mobile Building Space.
“It will be a bus that will have a lot of different stations where young women will be able to explore non-traditional paths and careers,” she explained. “It’s really to build confidence with handling tools and create exposure for all the opportunities that exist.”
As a woman in construction herself, Villalobos understands how vital it is to share her knowledge.
“It’s important that I have conversations with other women and people of other backgrounds,” she said. “I want them to be aware that there are opportunities that exist for them in our industry.”
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