Magazine article Techniques

Tradeswoman, Role Model and Recruiter: My Journey in the Construction Industry

Magazine article Techniques

Tradeswoman, Role Model and Recruiter: My Journey in the Construction Industry

Article excerpt

As a woman in the construction industry, I feel empowered about the changes I can effect and the benefits of this career path. While 50 years ago it was unusual to meet tradeswomen, much less businesswomen, I am encouraged to see women establishing careers everywhere--from the field to the C-Suite. And while we are still underrepresented in the construction industry, we are making our way into a workforce that is eager for the talent and experience we bring to the table.

I began my career working as a tradeswoman in an electrical craft. I performed various duties such as using hand tools and power tools, running cable trays, pulling cables, etc. And although my desire to enter the construction industry was somewhat unusual, I found my niche. Simply put: I found the love of my career! My construction career has taken me places I never dreamt of going, allowed me to gain experiences that enable me to act as a role model, and provided a lifetime of meaningful relationships.

I have a strong sense of pride for the construction industry and in creating opportunities for others. I love when people inquire about my profession, and I gladly say that I work in construction. Oftentimes, people say that I don't "look" like I work in construction. While I don't know what that necessarily means, I know that by the time the conversation is over, my passion and enthusiasm for the industry far outweigh what my appearance should look like.

I see myself as a tradeswoman, a role model and a recruiter at all times. I participate in activities that keep me connected to my construction roots, such as my construction camp for kids. I am inspired to seek out opportunities to talk to as many young women as possible about construction careers. Wherever I am and whatever I'm doing, I'm always looking to recruit women and young people into this field.

All of this comes into play in my role as manager of workforce development at Amec Foster Wheeler, where we actively embrace exposing students to careers in engineering and construction, and we support diversity and inclusion. Recently, we partnered with Henderson Mill Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia, to secure science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) certification from the state.

Paying It Forward

I was fortunate to be mentored by and work under the tutelage of some of the leading workforce development experts in the industry (e.g., Mike Stilley, director of training and development of S&B Engineers and Constructors, Ltd.; Matthew Clarke, director of workforce development at Jacobs; and Greg Sizemore, vice president of environment, health, safety and workforce development at Associated Builders and Contractors). Today, I have a place at the table with them as a peer.

Because my journey has involved so much professional development and mentoring, I feel compelled to share my success with young women, helping them to feel comfortable in pursuing STEM and construction-related careers. I want young women to know that they will get out of this field what they put into it, and putting their heart into their work is always a sound practice. Every day I aim to work smarter and to make the best of every situation. Keeping an open mind and heart has helped me to go far in my career and strive to do more.

I don't believe the industry is receptive to me because I am a female, but rather because I have the right attitude and the right resources, which drive positive outcomes. I want young women to not only see me as a woman in construction, but as someone who wants to have a profound impact in an arena where gender once ruled.

I am thankful for trailblazers like Molly Martin, who was the first female electrician for the city of San Francisco; Susan Eisenberg, a master electrician who began her apprenticeship with Local 103 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in 1978; and Fran Carter, a riveter on B-29 airplanes during WWII and the founder of the American Rosie the Riveter Association. …

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