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Barbies, Bows and Steel Toed Boots

Workforce Development

By Kirstyn Quandt, Communications Manager for NCCER, from NCCER Blog

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s the age-old question we are asked throughout the course of our childhood and for some, the most widely-contemplated decision that makes adulthood utterly terrifying. We are constantly searching for the job that will have us waking up each morning, loving what we do.  When you ask young children this very question, a majority of their responses are firefighters, ballerinas and professional athletes. While all are noble choices, the path to achieving such grand dreams takes refined skill and a great work ethic: the same two requirements for any trained professional.

If you check back in with the same students during their senior year of high school, you hear slightly more realistic and financially stable career choices such as nurses, lawyers and accountants where a collaborative corporate culture and great benefits package encompass their new dream. But how often do you hear children expressing their desire to pursue a career in construction and how often are young women encouraged to do so?

In 2013, the Associated Schools of Construction published the report Children’s Perception of Women in Construction and found that when 104 students between the ages of 7-12 were asked about their career aspirations, only 10% of young women expressed interest in non-traditional career paths and none showed an interest in the construction industry. Without question, society views construction as a male-dominated industry. It is up to us, as industry professionals, to highlight the many success stories of hardworking female craft professionals and encourage women of all ages to embark on any career path that excites and challenges them, regardless of the uniform worn or credentials required.

All students are taught to assume that the pursuit of nontraditional career paths carries greater risk and the possibility of less reward. If we are to encourage women to pursue careers they love, we have to first start by increasing the possibilities set before them. We must take two giant, steel toed boot strides forward for every outdated industry stereotype that sets us backward and break down the many barriers in our path. It’s time for our daughters, nieces, cousins and sisters to believe that anyone can be quick enough, smart enough and strong enough to pursue any career they choose. Cheers to Women in Construction Week!

For more information on Women in Construction Week, visit

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