TC GIRL Aims to Introduce Females to the Construction Industry

The coronavirus pandemic caused the construction industry to come to a halt for a few months in 2020. However, unlike many other industries, construction was ultimately deemed essential, and projects continued. But here’s the problem: Despite experiencing exponential growth, the construction sector is facing materials and staffing shortages that make building new homes an arduous challenge. 

“We definitely have a shortage of housing in this country,” Jeffrey Cleveland of Los Angeles-based investment management firm Payden & Rygel told Marketplace. “Builders can’t build them fast enough, and they can’t get enough labor to put them together.” 

As of June, although the United States Department of Labor says that 80 percent of construction employees have resumed working, the industry remains down approximately 238,000 workers from pre-COVID-19 levels. To further exacerbate matters, Associated Builders and Contractors report the sector will need to hire 1 million more workers over the next two years to meet demand. Christy Crook became one of the few women in America to own a masonry company when she established Thornton, Colorado-based Phoenix Masonry Inc. in August 2010. Christy believes that one way to mitigate construction’s labor crisis is to recruit more women into the sector. To support this effort, Phoenix Masonry was a platinum sponsor for Transportation & Construction GIRL Day on September 28. 

What is Transportation & Construction GIRL Day?

In 2017, the HOYA Foundation unveiled Transportation & Construction GIRL (TC GIRL) Day, which was attended this year by 530 people at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Golden, Colorado. Female students were given glimpses into the construction industry through interactive exhibits, including a flight simulator, survey equipment, drones, computer traffic programs, paint simulator, and more. TC GIRL aims to educate women and adolescent girls about careers in the transportation and construction industry and eliminate stigmas regarding females working in the male-dominated field. For reference, as of 2020, construction has the lowest female participation rate of any industry at 10.8 percent. 

Christy, who is outspoken in her beliefs that construction and masonry workers often enjoy sustainable, long-term careers, believes that TC GIRL can attract more females to construction. She also hopes that it will inspire high school guidance counselors to discuss construction as a viable option for soon-to-be graduating students, rather than strictly steering them toward college. 

“Transportation & Construction GIRL is an empowering organization that lets females imagine what their potential could be and what they could become,” Christy, an active member of the American General Contractors Association, Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute, and the National Association of Women in Construction, said. 

“This organization can open girls’ eyes to opportunities they may not have known existed beforehand. Plus, over the years, we’ve realized that many parents don’t really understand what the construction and transportation industries are. So, not only can this help young women, but it can also show parents that construction is a great career path for their kids and remove stigmas. I mean, until around five years ago, high school guidance counselors in Colorado weren’t even allowed to talk to students about opportunities other than four-year colleges.”

Keller Hayes has served as TC GIRL’s project director since December 2016. Keller discussed Christy’s contributions to the organization and explained what she hopes it can achieve. 

“Christy Crook with Phoenix Masonry calls Transportation & Construction GIRL her passion project,” Keller, who was the president of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce from 1997 through 2004, said. “Christy sponsors so that she can reach back and provide girls opportunities. As a sponsor, she helps Transportation & Construction GIRL Embrace the future of women in Transportation & Construction; Encourage young women to pursue sustainable, non-traditional careers; and Inspire young women with expert insight from successful women.”

The Many Jobs in Construction

It’s understandable for one to envision construction employees as people who are outdoors clearing debris, digging trenches, and building structures. But here is the truth: While that work is construction’s core, there are dozens of roles in the sector, including internal operations positions. Hence, if women aren’t interested in manual labor, there are other ways that they can use their talents to flourish in the industry. 

“One goal for TC GIRL is to show females that construction and transportation jobs aren’t just about being out in the field digging ditches or driving a bus,” said Christy. 

“So, before we had our event, we explained to these young women that there are marketing, administrative, accounts assistant, asset manager, and many other positions that aren’t out in the field getting their hands dirty and that kind of stuff. Now, that’s not to at all say that women can’t be amazing in the field, because they absolutely can. It’s basically just removing stereotypes. There are lots of jobs in construction and tons of cool things going on in the industry.” 

Will TC GIRL expand to other states? 

TC GIRL is currently exclusive to Colorado, but it could expand soon to other states across the country. Christy mentioned that, somewhat surprisingly, TC GIRL’s name recognition increased during the pandemic. 

“We received international attention on some of the things that we did during the pandemic,” Christy said. “Because of this new attention, we were able to create a partnership with the Guam Contractors Association. There are schools nationwide, including in Texas, California, and Idaho, that have contacted us about visiting and introducing their young female students to construction. Although TC Girl is still only in Colorado, our name is growing and there’s no telling how big the organization could become in a few years. This would be huge because construction is facing a labor shortage” 

An Aging Workforce Already Facing Labor Shortages

The average U.S. construction worker is aged 42.6 years. Thus, with an aging workforce, now is the optimal time for both males and females in the 18- to 40-year-old age bracket to consider a career in construction. This is particularly true for individuals in dead-end positions because the vast majority of C-level construction executives will educate novices and prepare them to ascend in the industry.

“All my employees at Phoenix know that they have opportunities to learn, develop, and move up,” Christy said. “Many industries, like the restaurant industry, have been hard-hit by mass resignations during the pandemic. But unlike these industries, construction jobs are reliable and pay well.”

Christy’s assertion is accurate because, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a construction worker on average earns $14.63 more per hour than an employee in the restaurant, retail, or hospitality sector. It’s also notable that the gender pay gap in the construction industry is nonexistent, with women earning an average of 99.1 percent of what men earn

Work at Phoenix Masonry

Phoenix Masonry specializes in commercial projects and has contributed to multiple noteworthy projects across the Centennial State, including Wadsworth Storage, the pedestrian bridges at Fox and Federal, and the Stanley Marketplace. Besides an impressive project portfolio, Christy’s staff grew 30 percent between 2017 and 2019. As growth continues, Christy is always interested in acquiring more talented workers, especially women. If you value integrity, quality, honesty, and transparency, and desire a role with limitless advancement opportunities, then you should contact Phoenix today and rise with us tomorrow.