Digital Builder

25+ Women in Construction Share Their Insight About Advancing the Industry

powerful women in construction

Throughout 2020 Women’s History Month and this week’s Women in Construction Week, we’re reminded of the incredible accomplishments of females in our past and present. For women in construction, while the path to career success has not always been an easy road, the payoffs are well worth it.

Nonetheless, there’s still a lot of work to do to create true equity in the construction industry. To help encourage more women and diverse talent to enter the construction industry, it’s essential we listen to the ones already in it. Recently, we spoke to more than 25 women in construction to learn more about the pride they have for their jobs, the steps companies can take to establish more equity, in addition to the advice they’d give to others entering the industry. You can easily navigate their insight via our table of contents, or just scroll below!

Why are you proud to work in the construction industry?

What can companies do today to create more equity in construction?

What advice would you give to others starting in the industry?

Also don’t forget to check out our infographic on the state of women in the construction industry!

Why are you proud to work in the construction industry?

Katie Frank - dome construction“1. I have always known walking onto a jobsite that was where I belonged.  I love being a female in this industry with hopes to change the industry and make it a norm for women to work in the construction industry. Growing up my parents never told me that the construction industry was a males industry, and I have never thought of the construction industry as a males industry. Not to say I’ve never felt outnumbered or overwhelmed, but I knew this is where I belonged, and not being a perfect match to the industry norm was not going to stop me from doing what I wanted to do.

2. When your client sees their new space for the first time, and they light up with excitement. It’s the moment you realize that all the hard work, long days, and headaches were for that one moment. That you and your team have built a new space for teams to work better, and have overall for the better impacted their day to day life. It’s the thank you with a hug at the end of a project.” – Kaitlin Frank, Superintendent, Dome Construction

Amanda Wilkinson“Seeing the owner proud to be in their new building, especially when it is what they have been working so hard to be able to obtain. When I was in design I always loved how excited the owner would get when you were able to design exactly what they wanted. It’s always nice to drive past a building and be able to say “I did that.” I think it just makes it more rewarding when you can visually see what you have been able to create.

Also, being in a “male-dominated” field, I love that I have an opportunity to impact the next generation of women and speak from my experiences. I want to make sure that they know they can do whatever they dream no matter their gender. It’s so exciting to see the spark in a kid’s eye when they think beyond the typical stereotype and realize they can do that too!” – Amanda Wilkinson, Project Engineer, Daniels and Daniels Construction

hannah-Metcalf“I feel very proud to work in the heavy civil construction industry because the community directly benefits in their everyday lives from the work we do. Constructing roads and bridges to drive on, storm drains to collect rainwater, water lines to provide access to drinking water and sanitary sewer to dispose of waste, all improve the quality of life for the general public.” – Hannah Metcalf, P.E., Project Manager, Emery Sapp & Sons, Inc.


“Construction allows me to find new innovative solutions to daily problems. I’m always proud to see the solutions my project team and I work on constructed in the field.” – Amanda Bordner, Project Engineer, W.E. O’Neil

Karyn Steencamp
Karyn Steencamp with her team: Deborah Finney, Ricci Uy (Director of Design), Meredith Ford (Design Manager), Tina Elser (Construction Controls Analyst), Jaime Parsley, Liza Lamug (Director of FF&E), Wendy Garrod (Project Manager),Melody Cirillo (Director of Construction), Dara Lesmeister (Safety Manager), Rhonda Santos, Jane Lam (FF&E Specialist), Sandra Sayegh (FF&E Specialist)

“I love the challenge of working within the constraints of budget and schedule while delivering a product we can all be proud of. I also pride myself and my team on communicating and ensuring our operations teams can do their job with our ultimate goal to be as invisible as possible. I always make it a goal to create a calmness within the organized chaos that construction projects often tend to be. We deal with many older buildings that have had numerous additions over 50-60 years at times. We never know exactly what we are going to find, and my current goals include determining the most effective way to perform a forensic investigation and compiling of historical data to try to get ahead of these unknowns.” – Karyn Steenkamp, Vice President, Design & Construction, Caesars Entertainment

Jamie Waller Headshot“What makes me most proud is that I am making a positive impact on the city and state that I serve. I gain a strong sense of pride by being able to see the results of my hard work and contributions to the industry in the form of completed transportation projects that I was able to be a part of. Also, I like knowing that as a woman in the construction industry, I am doing everything I can to set a good example and change the landscape of how women are perceived in construction.” – Jamie Waller, Assistant Director, Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)

Kathleen-Barber-536x400“Though the skilled construction trades have at times been resistant to women working out in the field, but women are making a good living there. The women receive equal pay; there is no disparity in wages. That is what makes me proud. That despite initial hesitancy in accepting women, at least in the electrical sector, there is now a full embrace of women entering the construction life.” – Kathleen Barber, Training Director, San Mateo Electrical JATC

Virtual Construction Specialist“I am proud to work in construction, because of the new culture we are growing into. Construction used to be known for this ‘good ol’ boys club’ feel; a culture where you worked for years to climb the pyramid to have a seat at the table to have a voice on the project. Now with the use of technology we defy that mindset. I am a young professional in the industry and I can work directly with a superintendent with years of experience to solve a problem on a project. I can bring my experience with technology to the table and they can bring their building experience; working together we can solve things quicker and more efficiently than ever.” – Melissa Schulteis​, Virtual Construction Specialist, Miron Construction

“The sense of accomplishment being able to witness a project go from plans to reality while being fully aware that it takes a huge team of construction professionals with diverse skills, talent, and experience for it to happen. No project can be built by one person alone!” – Syn Dee Chua, Assistant Project Manager, George J. Igel & Co., Inc.

Raquel Bascones Recio“I love working in construction because it gives me the chance to shape the places we live in. As a former scout, I always try my best to leave this world a little bit better than I found it. It is exciting seeing designs evolve from conception, to a digital model and finally been built on site. I enjoy the challenge of coordinating stakeholders, designs, and data while being flexible to change and unexpected events.” – Raquel Bascones Recio, BIM Implementation Consultant, Autodesk

What can companies do today to create more equity in construction?

Kira chase“Representation matters at all levels: look at the diversity in your C-Suite, Superintendents, Executives, Office Managers, Architects, Engineers, Project Directors, Schedulers, Project Managers, Security, and Environmental teams. Your company needs to talk about inclusion, act on it, and do so transparently. Grandstanding about how important diversity is coupled with inaction on including women and minorities – especially in leadership roles – reinforces inequality. Create a culture where everyone is open to talk about tough topics, and people are held accountable for their words and actions. Everyone needs to be a part of the conversation to create change, not just women and minorities. Diverse leadership not only helps the company by benefiting from a wider range of ideas and talent, but also those in the company who can look up to them as role models. At the same time, make sure that there is diversity in your support staff; if your accounting division and administrative assistants are all women and minorities, that also reinforces the idea of “that’s where they belong.” It’s imperative to underpin words and intentions with a systematic structure that supports diversity.”  – Kira Chase, Field Engineer, STV

“The first step to encouraging and supporting more equality in construction is to raise awareness and acknowledge that there has been an unconscious bias across the industry. It should be a priority for companies to create a diverse workforce in key management rolls to show support for more equality. Another key strategy to encourage more equality would be to incorporate more diverse interview panels during the hiring process.  Also, the industry needs to create training and education initiatives that specifically target minorities so that they become more receptive to consider a career in the construction industry.” – Jamie Waller, Assistant Director, Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)

Kelsey Stein, skanska

“It starts with an understanding of the benefits of diversity. One of our corporate values at Skanska is Be Better—Together, because we know that the more diverse a team is, the stronger it is. Bill Gates referenced that idea in his book, “The Road Ahead,” which he wrote in the 1990s when the internet was just taking off. At the time, only computer programmers could contribute content to the internet, and Gates knew this was going to hold it back. He said the only way the internet could reach its full potential is if everyone was able to add to the conversation. It’s hard to imagine what the internet would look like today if only computer programmers were allowed to add content. Its focus would certainly be much more narrow and limited—I don’t think most of us would find it useful. That is exactly what happens to companies that don’t make diversity a priority. When recruiting, companies need to cast a wide net to gather people together who have different perspectives, backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge. Then, once they get the right people to the table, give them a voice and the freedom to do what they were hired to do. When companies do this, they find—and retain—superior candidates and create a stronger team. Ultimately, our Be Better—Together value is what’s making Skanska a strong, diverse company that is always advancing in our ability to provide what we call customer delight. – Kelsey Stein, National Preconstruction Technology Manager, Skanska

Kate mcmahon Webcor“Challenge the “likeability penalty.” At times when women are confident, direct, or assertive in conversation, it can be interpreted as “bossy” or “aggressive.” It’s challenging (and even exhausting) to strike the “right” tone of “warmth” and “confidence” as a female in the workplace – think carefully about this to avoid gender bias. Confidence and assertiveness are positive and necessary qualities for future female leaders!

Also, ensure everyone’s voice be heard! An environment where everyone can express their opinions and ideas freely is much more effective. When the workplace feels challenging, but not threatening, teams are more motivated and engaged.” – Kate McMahon, Assistant Project Manager, Webcor

Emily Welch“Companies can make sure there are opportunities for employees to take continuing education classes/trainings, leadership trainings/seminars, set up mentor/mentee relationships to help support career growth within the industry.” – Emily Welch, Cost Control Analyst, CRB

Sara Foster“For companies to seek women employees, I believe they should raise awareness about being inclusive. The problem with women not wanting to join the construction and consulting workforce is because of fear of being put second and not seen as a valuable contribution to the company. In order to change this, we need women within these companies to speak out and also men within those companies to promote equality and the reason they feel women are valuable. The great thing about having women on your team is that we have a different perspective than men. A woman’s brain is hardwired in a much different way than men and can provide a sometimes much-needed outlook on issues that arise.” – Sara Foster, BIM Specialist II, AECOM

Oscia_Wilson“Regarding gender: At the company level, it’s critical to support parents with flexible schedules and parental leave. When a couple faces hard choices about how to balance child-rearing with careers, and their jobs don’t allow flexibility so they can equally share those duties, most couples will default to allowing the father to maximize his career while the mother steps back from her career to step up at home. That’s historically because it’s more likely the man is making more money and derives more of his self-worth from being a provider (due to societal conditioning). We, as a society, must equalize this so that people can make the right choices for them, regardless of gender. If that answer still ends up being the woman who steps back from her career for a while, that’s good that she made that choice because she wanted to and not because it was forced on her.

Regarding race and socio-economic equity: Companies must communicate early and often to young people that they are welcomed at every level of this industry. Representation and invitation matter. Allow people, especially people who don’t look like the usual suspects, paid time off to attend elementary school and high school career days to get kids’ imaginations excited about how they might one day run huge projects or even whole companies. Then follow through with offering paid internships and entry-level jobs!” – Oscia Wilson, Real Estate Project Executive, Google 

“I believe the best way we can encourage and support women in construction is by giving them an opportunity. I am a firm believer in hiring the best, most qualified person for a position, and I do not support the practice of hiring someone to fill a “quota.” This can create a negative backlash. The best way to overcome that is to become our new hires biggest cheerleaders, ensuring people see our shining stars. I have found my team is already sitting right around 50/50 for the male/female ratio. This was not intentional, and I believe it shows that women are just as qualified.” –  Karyn Steenkamp, Vice President, Design & Construction, Caesars Entertainment

McGregor-Grace“I think actively recruiting women is a start, as well as fostering an overall inclusive work environment for young working women. Creative family-friendly policies–for both mother and fathers–also will help retain women in the industry.” – Grace McGregor Kramer, Director of Strategy and Operations, McGregor Industries


rachel-treanor-740x922“The link between diversity and a company’s financial performance is nothing new. Specifically, as gender diversity tends to be a plus for profits, companies are taking notice. Women in architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) careers continue to be a source of competitive advantages and are vital for growth. Therefore, companies should continue to discuss and implement best practices for creating equitable, diverse, and inclusive environments in the workplace. The more companies can support and build a dynamic culture, one that is balanced and encourages and supports women to participate and thrive, the more diverse and therefore profitable a company can become. At Crossland Construction, women occupy top roles in ownership, project management, estimating, accounting, marketing, and business development.” – Rachel Treanor, Director of Business Development and Marketing, Crossland Construction Company, Inc.

Erin Behrendt“From a development perspective, having career paths established with clearly defined competencies and skills for each role lets employees know what it will take to get from one position to another. The transparency of the paths signals to employees that progression is not only possible, but also supported. Well defined competencies and skills are also tools for managers to use with their teams to offer feedback, support, and opportunities to help their people get where they want to go. Another way I think companies can encourage and support more equity is by giving people exposure to and experience with the different aspects of a project and the business. You never know what might spark an interest or is entirely new to someone. Giving these opportunities may include participating in “drive alongs,” job shadowing, being included in different meetings, formal or informal mentorship, internal job transfers, and more. If ever in doubt if an opportunity makes sense, I think great questions to ask are, “Why not?”and “What’s the worst that can happen?” – Erin Behrendt, Learning & Development Manager, Air Systems

“Companies can encourage and support women in the construction industry by being intentional in creating an inclusive culture. This can be achieved in a number of ways, such as providing education on unintentional gender bias, creating internal mentorship programs and enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for harassment. Companies also need to take an active role at increasing the number of women that enter the construction industry, such as implementing outreach programs geared toward women, in high schools and/or colleges, to encourage an interest in construction and the potential career opportunities available.” – Hannah Metcalf, P.E., Project Manager, Emery Sapp & Sons, Inc.

Sarah French“Engaging with young people and getting them in the office and on site to show them all the aspects of construction can only make them aware of potential career opportunities. To be honest I did Mechanical Engineering at college and University not just because I liked to know how things worked but also as I knew it was not the normal for a women to do. Being told by my high school teacher that design technology GSCE wasn’t for girls made me more determined to do engineering.” – Sarah French, BIM360 Implementation Consultant, Autodesk Customer Success

“The most important thing companies can do is to create and provide a culture that is positive, supportive, and encourages personal and company-wide success. Companies have to set and actively enforce a culture that encourages all employees to treat each other with care and respect and to support one another in a positive, constructive manner every single day. Once that culture is in place, a lot of the traditional beliefs and stereotypes commonly associated with the industry goes away. Women (and even men) will be more confident to take on greater responsibilities, to push the boundaries of their careers, and to never hesitate to ask questions or to seek help, knowing that they can rely upon colleagues who are supportive of them and their endeavors. This culture of positivity and support will command attention and will attract talent–from not just women but men as well.” – Syn Dee Chua, Assistant Project Manager, George J. Igel & Co., Inc.

What advice would you give to others starting in the industry?

Melissa Gomez_full“Take pride in being a student in your craft. Don’t be shy or afraid to ask questions. People starting out may feel less inclined to ask questions because they feel like it exposes a lack of knowledge, but no, it only shows others that you’re eager for knowledge. People like that. You would be surprised how many folks enjoy explaining and teaching things to you. Be humble, and ask those in the field, how is it they do what they do. There’s a wealth of knowledge in the field, only if you’re willing to tap into it.” – Melissa Gomez, Project Engineer, BNBuilders

Find your mentors. Many people find teaching and delegation of work difficult. Find those who are willing to take the time to answer your questions, provide constructive feedback, and challenge you. Be open to change, exploration, and being uncomfortable. This is true from jumping into a new role, gaining more responsibility, or exploring new technology that could help improve your jobsite. You can only learn by doing, asking a lot of questions, making mistakes along the way, and experiencing what works and what doesn’t. Grit, perseverance, and working hard will always outmatch ‘smarts’ or IQ. Construction is a small industry, and is entirely about relationships: treat everyone with respect. Whether it is your subcontractor’s foreman or your project executive, you’re only as successful as your team, and to be effective on your team, you must have strong relationships, communicate clearly, and understand everyone has different backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses. – Kira Chase, Field Engineer, STV

“People new to the industry should know that you can do anything you set your mind to. If there is a position out there that you want, make it happen. In my 8 years I have been an Administrative Assistant, a Construction Engineer and now a Sr. Cost Control Analyst managing 60MM projects. I attribute a lot of my success to wearing many hats in my career and being cross-trained can make an employee extremely invaluable. To work in this industry you also must be great at working as a team. There isn’t any role that doesn’t play a vital part in a successful project.” – Kelley Hamlin, Senior Cost Control Analyst, CRB

“This advice is two-sided for me: 1. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground if you know you are correct or have a good solution. 2. Don’t think that just because there is a push for women in construction, you can skate through. Learn your work and do a great job at it. Don’t give anybody a reason to doubt your skills.” – Talia Haerr, Pre-Construction Manager, Cupertino Electric


Kendall Pouland Headshot 11-2017“Work hard and learn something new every day. Male or female, young or old, if you continue to always learn new things and put that knowledge to use on the job, you will succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if there is something you don’t know; I really believe supervisors appreciate an inquisitive mind. Working hard may sound like obvious advice, but particularly when you are starting out, it is vitally important to prove your commitment and dedication to the job.  Sometimes the best opportunities to grow come before and after the busiest hours in the day.” – Kendall Pouland, Director of Technology and Innovation, Tellepsen 

Kelly Ewert“I would tell those just starting out in the industry not to be afraid to ask questions. Learn from your mentors, and don’t be afraid to mentor others. And persevere, because that is where you learn the most about who you are.” – Kelby Ewert, Electrical Engineer, Professional Engineering Consultants

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get out in the field as much as possible to see the products/materials that your company puts in place. I would also encourage you to get involved in an industry organization such as NAWIC to find a mentor and network within the industry.” – Heather Cassady, Senior Project Manager, Turner Construction Company

More Resources and Advice from Women in Construction

There are ample resources for women looking to enter or excel in the construction industry. If you’re looking for a solid list of top resources and organizations to get involved in, check out our list here.


Grace Ellis

Editor in Chief, Digital Builder Blog, Autodesk

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