WILMINGTON, N.C. — There are more than 7 million construction workers in the United States, but only 1 in 10 of those workers is female.
This month is Women’s History Month, and across the country, women in the construction industry are fighting to leave a different legacy with more representation and equality.
It’s a fight Kate Eames faces on the job regularly. When she’s walking a construction site, she says she's not usually seen for what she is.
“I get questioned about once a week if I’m the homeowner, and I with a smile, tell them, ‘no, I'm the builder,” said Eames, a general contractor with PBC Design + Build in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Eames manages dozens of large-scale construction projects every year. “
"I love what I do. As a young girl in middle school, I wanted to build houses. It was always a dream of mine,” said Eames.
But women like her are rare.
“It’s a challenge that women face. We don't have that representation. We do have these barriers to break with society to show that you know what, we deserve to be in these positions.”
Women make up only 10% of workers in the construction industry, and for women actually working on job sites, that number goes down to just 3%.
“That's what we're trying to change,” said Eames.
“Currently in the United States, we have about 48% of the workforce that's female. That's almost half of our workforce population that we're missing out on this opportunity.”
That opportunity is calling now. “Construction is having a boom. It's nuts with the amount of work and opportunities that we have here,” said Eames.
There are currently thousands of available construction jobs across the United States, and many offer on-the-job training.
This barrier to enter the field is something Eames hopes more women will realize.
“That's the biggest thing, is that you can join this workforce basically debt-free and take care of yourself, your family and make a career out of it,” said Eames.
That’s what Eames and her majority-female team are doing.
“Just being able to shoot out a fact of just exactly what they're talking about, and everyone kind of looks at you like, ‘oh, like interesting, ok, so she knows what we're talking about. It’s not a completely different language.’ It's rewarding in that fact, just because I think a lot of people aren't expecting it,” said Kelsey Talis, the interior designer for PBC Design + Build.
Eames is dedicated to bringing the next generation of women into the construction industry. She is part of the National Association of Women in Construction in Wilmington, participates in panel discussions and makes regular visits to schools across Wilmington to share her message.
She works tirelessly to educate and show young women there is a path to success in this industry. She knows, with support, more women will find the success she’s found.
“A lot of women lead with their heart, lead with empathy, and are great listeners and pay attention to details. And these are the things that really matter in construction,” said Eames.
By encouraging the things that really matter, one day this entire profession could look different and be a lot more equal.