Opinion Editorial by Lisa Kelly published in the Bakersfield Californian on March 15, 2022
California’s workforce was weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic and while we are regaining many jobs, we have a long road ahead. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, men have largely recouped their labor force losses, while more than 1 million fewer women were in the labor force in January 2022 compared to February 2020.
This trend is concerning, but not surprising. It was widely reported that working women shouldered a significant burden throughout the pandemic. Yet now as we look forward to a post-pandemic economy, there is a unique opportunity to get more women in the workforce, potentially into fields that are predominantly male, like construction, and now is the ideal time. It’s not only Women’s History Month, but National Women in Construction Week took place March 6 to March 12 – making it the perfect time to highlight the opportunities and benefits of working in construction in California.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve worked my way up to my current position as the vice president general manager at Lalonde Equipment Rental located here in Bakersfield. Lalonde Equipment has been around for more than 50 years — supplying the heavy machinery needed for projects like leveling the runway at Los Angeles International Airport and clearing debris for new freeways throughout California. I’m proud of the work that we do and that’s why I’ve worked here for more than a decade.
Jobs in the construction industry provide women the chance for a fulfilling career path and high wages. Society relies heavily on the construction industry, which most people associate with a hammer and drill, but there is so much more. Construction professionals are involved in almost every aspect of daily life, from building roads and bridges, to wiring lights and power in local grocery stores and schools. Not to mention, a woman can expect to earn 20 percent to 30 percent more in a skilled trade career opposed to a non-construction related career.
I acknowledge there is still work to be done to achieve a fully inclusive and diverse construction workforce, but we must take a moment to celebrate the amazing progress we’ve made over the last few years in building more opportunities for women to succeed in the industry. According to data gathered in 2021, women make up about 10 percent of construction industry workers. While there is still room to grow, this number has increased substantially since 2017. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of women working in construction trades increased by 17.6 percent.
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