Construction and Human Resources

Tips for women in construction

February 27, 2015
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Women make up about 9 percent of the construction industry in the U.S., according to the National Association of Women in Construction.

With the need for additional construction professionals and the push for a more diversified workforce, companies are seeking to add women to their teams. Women possess some of the most valued attributes of successful employees: strong communication skills, a knack for developing a collaborative and motivating team and the ability to maintain an organized and well-managed environment.

I’ve been in the industry for the past 10 years. I’m still learning how to make my mark, but here’s what has helped me so far:

Knowledge is power

Women need to stand out and make themselves valuable to their organization. One way to do this is providing a desirable skill that the firm is lacking. In construction, this may be lean construction approaches, green building methods, utilization of innovative technologies or new presentation practices. Take classes, read books and reach out to other mentors in the industry to develop these skillsets. By demonstrating proficiencies in these areas that are in short supply, you bring an irreplaceable value to your organization.

Find your passion

Working toward something you believe in makes you work harder, drives you to meet the goals you set for yourself and pushes you to overcome challenges. What can you bring to the table that no one else can? Figure out what you care about most in the construction industry — maybe it’s improving the environment by going paperless. Research and learn as much as you can about this area of the business so you become an indispensable part of the company.

Ask

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you believe you deserve, whether that be a bonus, a raise, or tools to help you succeed in your job. Authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever (“Women Don’t Ask,” Princeton University Press, 2003) conducted a study of students graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with master’s degrees. The starting salaries of the men were 7.6 percent, or almost $4,000 higher on average, than those of the women. According to the authors, only 7 percent of the female students had negotiated their salaries to ask for more money, but 57 percent (eight times as many!) of the men had asked for more money. The students who had negotiated were able to increase their starting salaries by 7.4 percent on average — almost exactly the difference between men’s and women’s average starting pay. The authors suggest this salary difference between men and women might have been eliminated if the women had negotiated their offers.

Show initiative

Are there processes or systems within your company’s communication or management? Discover ways to improve these outdated, inefficient systems and present your findings.

Connect with a mentor

It’s helpful to know someone else has been (or is currently) in your shoes. Find a mentor who has been in the industry long enough to offer you advice and to just give you that knowing nod of “I’ve been there.” It’s much easier to stay on task and work diligently toward your goals when you have a support system that understands what you’re experiencing, supports your work and offers great advice to overcome any challenges.

As women, we need to understand who we are and what we bring to an organization while also ensuring that we are respected by our co-workers. Women need to understand that they do not need to change who they are to fit in with the men. We simply need to be confident in ourselves so that our teams can accept us for who we are.

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