A recent Associated General Contractors of America report revealed that the number of unemployed workers in the construction industry has hit a 14-year low. This report fuels concerns by many in the industry over an impending labor shortage.
In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 8.9% of people working in the construction industry were women. Could this be an opportunity to help the labor shortage? From the popularity of GoldieBlox construction toys for young girls, to programs like Dunwoody’s Women in Technical Careers and Summit Academy OIC here in the Twin Cities, encouraging women to consider a career in construction is a movement that continues to gain momentum.
How do we inspire more women to pursue a career in construction? We talked to Senior Project Manager Meghan Huber and Associate Project Manager Kate Freier to find out how they got into the construction industry, what it’s like, and their advice for aspiring women in construction. As project managers, they have an important role as the main liaison with the client and are in charge of estimating, scheduling, and planning construction projects from start to finish.
What drew you to pursue a career in the construction industry?
Meghan: I wasn’t actually drawn to it but rather fell into it after college. I was immediately taken by the tangible nature of commercial construction, with a definite beginning and end. I worked with a young civil engineer who was kind enough to share his love of all things construction. I grew in that first position and took course work in estimating, project management, scheduling, etc.
Kate: My dad was a builder and I was introduced to the process early on. I started my college career in pursuit of an architecture degree, but I quickly realized that construction management was a better fit for me.
What do you like about working in construction?
Meghan: I like the fast pace, plus the satisfaction of completing a project and the excitement of a new one starting! The teamwork and the relationships that evolve from that are also really rewarding.
Kate: I’m very goal-orientated and the construction industry allows me to be a part of a project from start to finish. It’s a very satisfying process for me to be involved with when I get to see a beautiful building be constructed.
What advice would you give other women interested in a construction career?
Meghan: Don’t be afraid to be the only woman in the room. Just know your stuff and be prepared. Most of the men that I’ve worked with in commercial construction are very kind, generous, and down to earth.
Kate: I think it’s very important to be knowledgeable as a female in this industry. People will likely doubt your knowledge initially, but if you can show them that you know what you’re talking about they will take you more seriously. Also, these days there are more women in the construction industry to reach out to for help. Many of them are willing and eager to help younger females in the industry. Finding a good mentor or friend can be invaluable in your career growth.
How do you think we can encourage more women in construction careers?
Meghan: Invite women to tour jobsites and see the construction work in action firsthand. The more time spent in the field, the better, because it makes you feel more comfortable.
Kate: By opening their minds! Many women don’t see the career path that fits them in this industry, even if they could be perfect fit for a job in construction. I would like to be able to educate them on the different positions in the construction industry that women excel at.
Do you have any funny stories to share about working in a male-dominated industry?
Meghan: I’ve had a few jobs where we’ve had a women’s only port-a-pottie. The women’s stays nice and clean, but in order to keep it that way we have had to pad lock it and give keys to all of the women onsite!