Six Huge Lessons from Three Inspiring Women Working in the Construction Industry – Amanda Wilks

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While the gender roles have changed significantly over the past few decades, there are some fields that remain dominated either by males or females. One example is the construction industry which is traditionally thought to be a man’s industry. An increasing number of women have entered the field, though, and some have risen in the ranks to management.

They often must go to greater lengths to prove their worth to their male counterparts, but the bias against females in construction is improving. The best way to continue this progress is for leaders to tell their stories and give advice to those new to the field. Some top influential women leaders in the trade include:

  • Lina Gottesman
  • Katie Metcalf
  • Sarah Carr

Lina Gottesman: Find Motivation and Become an Expert

While Gottesman grew up in a family who all worked in the construction and restoration business, she studied nursing in school and worked as a critical care nurse. In 1989, she and her husband began their business, Altus Metal, Marble, Wood, for which she now serves as president and CEO. Gottesman is experienced in all aspects of the business, from proper techniques onsite to vendor relations to accounting and marketing tasks.

When speaking to a group of young students at Millie King Entrepreneurship Program about her success, one piece of advice she gave them was to believe in themselves even when others did not. She emphasized the importance of finding motivation and drive from within, rather than always looking to others for reassurance. Instead of asking for permission to succeed in a male-dominated field, she advised them to go after their dreams.

She also explains that there are different standards for each gender, and females generally have to prove themselves assets, something often taken for granted with males. The second piece of advice she has is to become an expert at the technical side of the business. It is much easier to take someone seriously when they have vast, workable knowledge about the subject area.

Katie Metcalf: Recognize Bias and Aim High

Working at Gardiner and Theobald, Metcalf is now a partner specializing in retail building at the construction consulting firm. When speaking about her career, she emphasizes the variability in tasks noting that, in the same day, she could be on site in the morning and in an office meeting an hour or two later. Metcalf is also an advocate for getting more young girls interested in a future career in construction.

She advises them to be completely aware of the gender bias before entering the field. People are not that used to the idea that women wear work boots, the bias still exists. Metcalf explains that she has always felt the need to prove herself when starting every new project. (Source) This may not be fair, but it did help her hone her skills early on.

In management, Metcalf can definitely tell that females are in the minority. While there is a gender wage and achievement gap in many industries, she is an firm advocate for women pursuing leadership positions. She advises them to make lofty goals and fight for promotions and equal pay. Future leaders need to continually develop leadership skills through education and new experiences.

Sarah Carr: Make Connections and Continue Learning

Carr serves as a vice president at McCarthy Building Companies and works to develop training procedures and won the 2016 ‘Executive of the Year’ award. She is a huge proponent of increasing gender diversity in construction and, to this end, even helped begin WiOPS.

She advises entry-level workers to find a mentor which might be hard in this male-dominated field. Carr discusses one problem in working with mostly males is forming a bond with co-workers, employees and vendors. It is often easier to make friends and associates of the same gender. Even though it may be uncomfortable, Carr recommends making an extra effort to reach out and form relationships.

Finally, she also advises that female workers in the construction industry be realistic about their own skills and continue to improve. Carr describes that male managers give more generic, less helpful criticism to females and do not give suggesting for improvement. She hopes to see more workers fight for the positions they deserve within the construction industry.

These featured construction managers worked their way up to leadership positions in a male-dominated field. The most remarkable thing about them, though, is that they now are reaching down and helping rise the next generation in the field. Their advice is summarized below:

  • Believe in self; self-reliance
  • Demonstrate skills in all areas of the industry
  • Work hard from the beginning to prove self
  • Set high goals within the company
  • Be aware of the gender bias
  • Develop relationships with co-workers

Having both genders represented in management within the construction industry is beneficial for companies as well as employees. Both individual companies as well as larger corporations offer incentives for their employees, providing career advice and mentoring services.

New research suggests that women might even help relieve the labor crisis in construction. Keeping the above tips in mind will help future managers excel in the field and receive promotions.