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Colorado Parents, We Need More Pink Hard Hats

Guest Author: Keller Hayes, Director of Transportation & Construction GIRL

Some questions for those in Colorado raising daughters – would you encourage them to pursue work or careers in predominantly male industries? Does the thought give you pause or an extra layer of concern? Would you worry they might be subjected to a hostile work environment or – even worse – possibly face discrimination or harassment on the job? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your feelings are certainly valid – especially when you consider some of the stereotypical perspectives women face in the workplace. But believe it or not, the times really are changing for the better in industry sectors such as commercial construction and transportation. And when you consider the evidence, as well as the current opportunities at stake, you may come to agree on one thing…

We need more pink hard hats.

Taking a Closer Look
If you can put aside your reservations and keep an open mind, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover how much has changed in recent years for women in construction. First, let’s review some of the latest facts and figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Industry data reveals that there are approximately 1.3 million women who currently work in commercial construction, representing nearly 11% of the total workforce. While those figures certainly affirm that it’s still a male-dominated industry, female employment has actually risen sharply for the past 11 consecutive years. Going back to 2012, when just over 800,000 women worked in this sector, commercial construction has witnessed a 60.5% jump in female participation. Historically low unemployment rates and the disruptive change brought about during the pandemic have both played a part in this growth, but the industry itself is taking great strides to diversify staffing and provide resources that encourage further recruitment of women. 

Why Should Women Pursue Careers in Construction?
Here’s where we get to the good news, as there are several beneficial reasons that young women should consider careers in commercial construction and transportation. Among the best statistics is the lack of gender pay gap. Though nationally, women earn an average 16% less than their male counterparts – about 84 cents for every dollar men earn. But in commercial construction, women earn a remarkable 95.5% of what men do. And nearly half (40%) of all females in the industry occupy leadership and managerial positions. Average salaries for experienced workers – even those without a secondary education – are quite attractive. To name a few specifically, project coordinators average $90,000, drone operators make $82,000, brick masons $80,000, tower crane operators $77,000, estimators and architects come in at $75,000, and electricians earn $58,000. 

What Females Can Really Expect in the Construction Field
The majority of entry-level roles in construction offer excellent on-the-job training and apprenticeships, which continue throughout their careers in the form of professional development and advancement opportunities. Lastly, labor shortages – for both skilled and unskilled workers – have recently reached near-crisis levels in commercial construction. According to projections from the Associated Builders and Contractors, the construction industry is seeking nearly a million new workers to meet industry demand by the year 2025. And what about meeting on-the-job expectations? According to a recent survey conducted by the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), 90% of female construction workers state that their male counterparts treat them with respect, 80% say they love their job., and 70% report having had the opportunity to advance their careers in the last year.

A Great Place to Start
As the director of the Denver-based nonprofit Transportation & Construction GIRL, founded in 2016, our primary mission is to embrace, encourage, and inspire girls and young women to explore financially independent and sustainable careers that lead to economic self-sufficiency. Through a wide range of programming and educational resources, we’re helping girls and young women build self-esteem, confidence, and grow into their full potential. On our website, at, we promote online career information in our Superstar Women in Transportation & Construction Video Gallery, a TCG Coloring Book featuring only women in construction, shadowing and mentoring opportunities with women who’ve established successful careers in construction and transportation. But the centerpiece of our effort comes in the form of our experiential presentations – including our headline event, Transportation & Construction GIRL Day, in which we host over 1,200 attendees for a live daylong experience in September each year. In addition, we promote three consecutive Career Week opportunities in June, where girls and young women tour different worksites and learn about the industry. These experiences are the perfect opportunity to introduce girls and young women to real-world, hands-on jobs in construction. We’re fortunate to have the backing of dozens of corporate supporters, all of whom contribute financial and in-kind assistance that keeps our mission top of mind. At T&C GIRL, we like to say that we’re not just changing lives, we’re changing lifetimes.

While there are still obstacles to overcome, there’s never been a better time for girls and young women to explore what’s possible in the construction and transportation industries. Development is booming across the state, and it’s high time we begin seeing more pink hard hats on Colorado’s abundant number of job sites.

About the Author
Keller Hayes is the director of Transportation & Construction GIRL, a pioneering nonprofit that combines education and training with real-world, hands-on experiences for girls and young women looking to establish financially independent careers. A 15-year veteran of the construction and transportation industry, she’s consulted for both the U.S. and Colorado Department of Transportation and has previously been awarded the “Women in Business Advocate of the Year,” by the U.S. Small Business Association. She can be reached at

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