March 7-13 is Women in Construction Week (WIC)! The focus of the week is to highlight women as a viable component of the construction industry. WIC week also provides an occasion for National Association of Women in Construction’s (NAWIC) thousands of members across the country to raise awareness of the opportunities available for women in the construction industry and to emphasize the growing role of women in the industry.
While the overall number of women in construction is 25% higher than ten years ago, women account for only 9% of the construction workforce. Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to interact with many of these hardworking, fierce, assertive, and perceptive women in the concrete construction industry. I interviewed two women leaders in the construction industry to learn more about their experiences.
Why did you choose construction and what led you to the industry?
- Tammy: I chose construction because it paid more than retail. I found out I could wear jeans and t-shirts and be outside. My dad led me to construction; I followed in his footsteps and it
- ended up being where I belonged and where I would spend a very long, fulfilling career!
- Carly: Unlike most people I meet in the industry, I never planned to end up here. I started as a cement engineer in the oilfield right out of college. When oil and gas crashed, they laid off everyone. I had a friend from college who got me in contact with a ready-mix producer in Denver. I didn’t know anything about the industry, but they took a chance on me. I ended up staying there for over five years before moving on to a new adventure.
What is your favorite project you have worked on?
- Tammy: Pecos Street Bridge over I-70. It was built offsite and “rolled” into place. Super cool!
- Carly: In 2018 we had a 5-day continuous pour in Northern Colorado. It was a six-pack slipform silo structure requiring approximately 3700 cubic yards of concrete. I was in charge of developing the concrete mix design in the lab and was the primary point of contact at the job site.
What is the biggest challenge of being a woman working in construction?
- Tammy: Porta-Potties -haha! Having to prove yourself above and beyond most men. I’ve been passed up for promotions when I’ve been the most qualified candidate competing with all men.
- Carly: There is still the stigma that women are not as capable of doing the same job as some of their male counterparts. Our work may be challenged more often, and we must work twice as hard to prove ourselves. This can deter young women from pursuing an otherwise rewarding career in the construction industry.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
- Tammy: Go in with no expectations or entitlement. Work hard and be honest and humble. You will get noticed! On the flip side, don’t get “walked on.” Ask a lot of questions and be willing to learn everything you can! If you admire someone’s knowledge, work ethic or “style,” ask them to mentor you!
- Carly: Never turn down an opportunity to try something new. Learn as much as you can, as often as you can. The industry can be tough, but you have to be tougher.
Thank you to both Tammy and Carly for sharing their experiences. I appreciate your time, willingness and participation!
Women in Construction week gives us an opportunity to recognize the outstanding women in our industry. However, as allies to these women, our work does not stop there. We must educate the next generation of concrete construction professionals, remove barriers of entry to the industry and continue to listen to these women’s perspectives. Learn more about the NAWIC and how to get involved in your local chapter: https://www.nawic.org/nawic/Chapters.asp. Additionally, the Women in Concrete Alliance is active in Colorado and a great way to get connected with other professionals in the concrete construction industry: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/1807540/.
JT Mesite, P.E.