When I joined the National Fenestration Rating Council as document coordinator in 2009, it was my first job in the building environment. And, of course, when I attended my first NFRC meeting, it was hard to miss the demographic make-up of attendees—a lot of men. I didn’t have access to the registration list of that meeting, and much hasn’t changed over the years. I looked at the registration from Spring 2013 and see 8 (of 114 registered) women attended. At least 20 women are expected at the Spring Committee Hybrid Meeting that begins on March 21.
There may be some positive news, though, as I have observed more women becoming NFRC Certified Simulators, with approximately 50 women in the group—26 percent—of simulators.
“As the membership manager, I have had women in the industry comment on the encouragement they have received from their male peers,” says Jessica Finn, NFRC membership manager. “I have also noticed at NFRC meetings that the women attending do not seem to be afraid to speak on any of the topics brought forward. The number of women serving on the NFRC board of directors has also increased.”
But how fast is the group growing, why does it matter, and how can we encourage more women to work in fenestration?
A slowly growing number of women
According to a 2020 article in Interesting Engineering, women in the manufacturing sector is at the lowest point since 1970, at 27 percent. For 2018, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported that women in construction was the highest in 20 years at 9.9 percent. By 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has women making up 11 percent of the construction industry, 29.2 percent of overall manufacturing, and 23.7 percent for glass and glass product manufacturing. But, considering that women make up 47 percent of the total workforce, growth has been slow.
Why do we need more women in manufacturing?
The BLS estimates 375,000 more manufacturing jobs will be added in the next 12 months. With reports of employee shortages, it makes sense for women to consider these typically “male” jobs and for employers to determine whether recruitment strategies are reaching all capable, qualified workers.
Research suggests that women are more apt to collaborate. In addition, common sense suggests that including half of the population will bring in opinions and ideas not previously heard, increasing innovation.
What can the industry do to encourage women?
Companies interested in attracting more women to the workplace can start by asking their current employees for ideas:
- Find out if the workplace is welcoming to them and adjust company culture if necessary.
- Make sure that women are being considered for all jobs and are not being pigeonholed into certain roles.
- Encourage continuing education and provide opportunities for employees to pursue certification in relevant construction, manufacturing, or other areas.
NFRC has joined the growing chorus of those encouraging women to enter the industry. As the number of women increases, NFRC can provide resources, including mentoring opportunities and support through the Women in Fenestration network that was created in 2021. This group provides women a forum to share experiences, discuss challenges, tour their successes and encourage others. We will also be doing additional research to get data on the number of women specifically in fenestration.
Through regular meetings, either in-person or virtually, NFRC’s Women in Fenestration network will gather a group of women from all professional levels in energy efficiency, emerging technology, green building and manufacturing to talk about opportunities, barriers and their experiences on working in the industry. All who are interested in joining are welcome, including men!
Researching this topic, the industry has and is taking steps to diversify its workforce. My personal experience, as an NFRC staff member and attendee at various industry events, is that men in fenestration are welcoming and encouraging. By broadening the discussion and listening to all voices, all will benefit from the varying perspectives, ideas and differences of opinion.