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Nevada women in construction see some hiring progress

Miranda Ruff, project engineer at construction company McCarthy Building Cos. in Henderson, works with about six other women on a 29-person team renovating the Palms.

It may not seem like much, but she’s impressed; there were only two women on the team when she started a little over a year ago.

“More girls are coming into the field,” Miranda Ruff said. “I think they’re starting to realize how lucrative it is.”

The 23-year-old, who started working with McCarthy in March 2017, works alongside her sister, 25-year-old Bailey Ruff, an assistant project manager. The two majored in construction engineering at Arizona State University.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of women in the industry rose from about 416,000 full-time-salary workers in 2010 to 600,000 in 2016. Still, women made up just 9.1 percent of employees in the U.S. construction industry in 2017.

“I definitely see more women coming into construction and having interest in construction, especially at the collegiate level,” Bailey Ruff said. “We definitely always need people. … In the last three years it’s just gotten hotter and hotter and the opportunities are pretty much endless.”

After the Great Recession hit the local construction industry, jobs are coming back. The average number of people employed in construction at any given time in the state was 83,107 in 2017, compared with 51,800 in 2012, data from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation show. Labor Statistics also reported the annual average salary for construction managers in Nevada in May 2017 was $90,050, compared with $45,040 for the state as a whole.

Many companies desperately need workers with so many large projects underway in the city; the solution, according to the Ruff sisters, might be hiding in half of the population.

“We need people,” Bailey Ruff said. “It’s a shame (women) are missing out, if only because they don’t know it exists or they can’t visualize themselves being in that position. They can be just as successful or more successful than any man.”

More women would bring a diverse skill set to the industry, Bailey Ruff said.

“It’s all about being organized and solving problems, and women are inherently organized. … There’s a lot of attention to detail,” she said. “I don’t have the muscles to use some of the equipment out here, but I definitely have the brain to walk out there, to make sure (workers) are performing work safely and building safely.”

“Diversity always brings a new perspective to the mix,” Miranda Ruff added.

There are still many hurdles for women in the industry, they said. For example, industry networking largely happens on the golf course. Women accounted for only 24 percent of on-course golfers in 2017, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To help women overcome these challenges, McCarthy offers women-specific events, including golf lessons, through a program called the McCarthy Partnership for Women.

“Not a lot of women really golf,” Bailey Ruff said. “If you’re uncomfortable golfing, you miss out on an opportunity to meet with clients.”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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