How the Infrastructure Bill Could Expand Opportunities to Women and Minorities

Rose Morrison imageRose Morrison  •  

Infrastructure women Throughout American history, women and minority workers have experienced fewer employment opportunities. They also encounter higher rates of harassment and pay discrepancies. The Biden-Harris administration targets some of the current employment limitations in its infrastructure bill.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

The infrastructure bill is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s Build Back Better (BBB) act. Infrastructure regulations typically target road, railroad, bridge, and port designs. The Biden administration has expanded the term to include social infrastructure.

A $1.2 trillion bipartisan fund backs the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This act supports transportation improvement projects, energy grid development, water supply distribution, cybersecurity, environmental cleanup efforts, and other climate change-related ventures. BBB also focuses on increasing employment opportunities as we transition out of the global pandemic.

Women and minority workers experienced higher COVID-related unemployment rates. These demographics fill more in-person positions, which became obsolete during the pandemic. Today, women and minorities may struggle to find work.

The infrastructure bill can support unemployed individuals by increasing construction job opportunities. The construction industry has notoriously low employment rates for women.

Women and Minorities in the Construction Industry

Of the 808,891 employees in the industry, about 87.8% are male. Only about 8% of women fill construction positions. White workers also make up the largest portion of individuals in the industry.

African American employees hold about 10.7% of construction positions. Hispanic and Latino workers fill 24.5% of jobs in the industry. Few women and minority employees hold contractor positions.

The hierarchy within the industry limits construction workers’ and subcontractors’ ability to access livable wages. When white men hold contractor positions, they hire fewer women and minority employees. Resource limitations also prevent the demographic from achieving contractor and subcontractor positions.

The infrastructure bill could increase employment opportunities for individuals in the construction industry. It will also build a supportive infrastructure, which improves individuals’ access to essential resources like public transportation.

Increasing the Number of Trade Positions

Trade schools are less expensive than conventional, higher education institutions. The schools also offer flexible schedules, which accommodate parents. Trade positions often attract women and minorities because of their affordability and flexibility.

The infrastructure bill plans on improving the transportation system, environment, and employment rate by building better roads and bridges. About 30 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions enter the atmosphere annually from idling. Developing efficient roads and bridges can minimize transportation emissions.

Expansion projects can increase construction employment rates. More women and minorities may fill the positions to support green infrastructure endeavors. The infrastructure bill also improves employment rates by providing supportive resources like universal preschool.

Free Universal Preschool

Part of the Biden-Harris administration’s bill targets the early childhood development sector. The administration is distributing a portion of BBB funding to support universal preschool. Women and minority parents can maintain good jobs with reliable access to free childcare.

Many women are unable to hold steady jobs because of limited childcare access. Free preschool could help parents of 3- and 4-year-olds keep higher-paying positions. BBB and the infrastructure bill also support minority children through immigration reform.

Reforming the Immigration System

The Biden administration’s legislation offers the same child tax credit (CTC) benefits to young individuals without Social Security numbers as citizens. The administration provides children with about $300 a month for food, education, and other vital resources. The legislation also delivers high-cost fines to companies found discriminating against minority workers.

Another feature of the immigration reform program increases individuals' access to citizenship. Offering expedited citizenship pathways also improves minority employees’ access to better employment opportunities. The infrastructure bill additionally increases the demand for technological advancements.

Supporting Technological Advancements

Developing sustainable transportation, water management, and energy systems requires tech engineers. The Biden administration plans to use more smart technology to minimize energy waste and increase national security. Many smart technology system positions are remote.

Women and minorities can reduce their need for childcare by working from home. Improving smart technology in the construction industry also reduces the risk of on-site injuries. The industry is adopting smart systems to help individuals engage in construction work remotely by using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The technology can also monitor on-site conditions and hold employers and other workers accountable for their actions. Many women and minority employees experience discrimination and harassment at their jobs. Adding cameras and other monitoring systems can increase safety for all employees.

Expanding Career-Building Tools

Another feature of the infrastructure bill is increasing individuals' access to high-speed internet. Only about three-quarters of Americans have access to Wi-Fi. As individuals receive broadband internet services, women and minority workers can search for and compare positions on digital job boards. The infrastructure bill also targets high internet costs so all individuals have access to services.

Another feature of the bill supporting employment is public transportation expansions. Many women and minority workers struggle to keep their jobs because of limited access to reliable transportation. Improving the affordability and reliability of buses and trains can help individuals get to job interviews.

The bill additionally improves national health conditions, which minimizes employment interference. The Biden-Harris administration will improve Americans’ access to clean drinking water. About 10 million homes have unsafe water supplies. Many properties contain outdated lead pipes, which leak contaminants into drinking water.

Lead exposure can cause anemia, brain damage, and other adverse health effects. Unsafe living conditions impact minority residents more frequently than priviledged individuals. Improving water safety can improve individuals’ health and their ability to work physically demanding jobs.

Necessary Improvement Measures

The Biden-Harris administration must improve the infrastructure bill to include harassment prevention features. Nearly 66% of women in the construction industry experience sexual harassment. Minority workers also experience high rates of racism in the industry.

Government officials must hold contractors and subcontractors accountable for their actions to minimize harassment. They should also increase companies’ pay transparency to minimize wage discrepancies. Women and minorities receive significantly lower salaries than white male workers.

Displaying wages for job listings on digital platforms can hold employers accountable for their financial decisions. When the administration makes necessary improvements, it can support more women and minority workers.

When Will the Bill Impact the Job Market?

The Infrastructure Bill passed the Senate and the House last year. Communities should begin noticing improved employment opportunities soon. The administration is delivering funding to construction projects now, which will start this year.

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Rose Morrison is the managing editor of Renovated, where she covers contracting and residential construction topics. Check out her Twitter to see more of her work.

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