Women in Construction Deliver Project Advantages
The percentage of women in the construction industry has not changed much since 1990, staying around 10% of the industry’s total workforce or about 1 million workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some cities such as Washington, D.C have a larger percentage of women in the industry, around 16% of the city’s construction workforce. Even so, the flatness of the data means that it will be some time before there is an equitable industry ratio between men and women.
In addition, most of the jobs that women perform in the construction industry are administrative or sales roles. Professionals, management and finance, transportation, construction and maintenance roles are still dominated by men.
To observe Women in Construction Week, which happens in March each year, we wanted to share the benefits of having women in the field and in managerial roles. At HBW, we have experienced a positive environment to grow our careers, including an internal Women in Construction group to help the company retain and support women professionals. Here are two perspectives about the value that women bring to construction projects.
Jessica Hipp – Construction Superintendent
I have been in the construction industry for about 15 years, almost three years now with HBW. I started as a steamfitter and welder and learned to manage a project over time. I wanted to go to college for psychology, but I couldn’t afford it. Surprisingly, I am now in a role where it’s critical to understand human behavior and get many people working in the same direction.
As a superintendent, I am the center point of job site activity and the construction project schedule. I am working with people from all different life experiences, ages, races, different beliefs and attitudes. We have to be a team to get the job done well. It’s not easy, but it’s very rewarding.
What I mean is that construction can be a brash and tough workplace environment. When there are issues, some people will butt heads and get angry, which can make the work more stressful than it needs to be.
The last three projects I worked on, though, the management team, owners and architects were all female. When we’re all at the table for our weekly meetings, it’s pretty incredible. Seeing other women on the job site with tape measures and hard hats is so enlightening. In my career, I have definitely seen more women architects and project managers than when I started. Things seem to happen faster in the construction project schedule on those jobs with better communication and efficiency.
Superintendents tend to move around a lot. We like new challenges and don’t get attached to companies. One of the reasons I chose to work for HBW was the recruiting process. I came for an interview, and I could tell that the leadership team would care about me. My experience here has been completely different than other companies I’ve worked for; I have a senior superintendent who I can call anytime I need something. If I’ve had a rough day, he will talk me off the ledge. I feel heard and supported by the leadership team in a way that makes me so glad I chose them.
“I think what I bring to the construction industry is chaos management skills. I’m always anticipating and looking ahead to the next phase and how to avoid issues before they start. I can also quickly organize and mobilize people to handle a problem as it’s happening. I can assert myself without screaming to get the job done effectively.”
Alexandra Dramby – Senior Project Manager
My dad always worked in construction. He was a senior project manager, and I would work in his office during the summer. I continued working there as a full-time project administrator while I went to college at night. I actually didn’t go to college for construction, but after graduation I put the feelers out to different industries to get an entry-level position. None of the positions intrigued me compared to what I was doing at my construction job.
So I made the decision to stay in construction. I worked my way up from project engineer to project manager, and it happened that I was bidding on the same project as HBW about five years ago. They took my contact information and reached out, but it took a year for me to make the decision. I’m a very loyal person and wanted to give my former company a chance, but I was getting disillusioned. I actually thought about leaving construction. Instead, I took the position at HBW, and it was the best decision I ever made. I love to come to work here.
I agree with Jessica that the number one thing women can bring to construction projects is organizing solutions and keeping everything well documented and clean. From the clients I know who like to work with me, they appreciate my prompt response to help them save time and money.
We have our women in construction group at HBW that meets quarterly, and we do fun gatherings like a happy hour or a paint night or we’ll do training on something such as the art of negotiation. Also, our president Phil Scott is active in Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW), which shows that he supports women in the industry. That is a model for the company. We treat each other with respect and care.
“My dad is still in construction as a director of health care construction, and my husband is in construction, too. I like sharing ideas and referrals with them and getting advice. I’m looking forward to where this career takes me next, and I would say that there are many opportunities for women in the construction industry.”
Careers in Construction
It is not required to have a degree in construction to work in the industry, with most people starting as helpers or administrators and advancing through their field work experience. College graduates typically start as project engineers and work their way up to assistant project manager, project manager or senior project manager. From there, they can apply for superintendent roles to run their own projects.
Management isn’t the only opportunity in construction. Trade roles such as plumbing and electrical or transportation and heavy equipment are in demand. The field also offers fairly equal pay for women as for men. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that the median full-time wage for women in construction is $46,808 per year compared to $43,394 for female workers across all industries.
Women who work in construction and recent graduates, regardless of degree, are welcome to contact HBW to learn more about our firm and how we promote women in construction. Happy Women in Construction Week!
Resources for Women in Construction Week: https://www.nawic.org/nawic/WIC_Week_Resources.asp
Author Alex Dramby, Senior Project Manager.
Author Jessica Hipp, Superintendent.