The Future of Women in Construction
What does the future for women in construction look like? According to a recent survey of industry experts, the gender balance is slated to improve in the next decade.
To change the narrative, there needs to be clear messaging about diverse career pathways, a reduction in systematic barriers, increased networking opportunities, and much more.
“Equipping the younger generation with the right tools is critical,” says April Intrabartola, Vice President, Eastman Cooke Construction. “That means providing them with ample opportunities for mentoring, internships, and training so they can effectively learn and grow in the construction industry.”
Eastman Cooke’s leadership has continuously supported professional development opportunities for women – or anyone – looking to enhance their range of skill sets. For April, paving the right path for her staff involves frequent communication to help them succeed. “I always make myself available to new employees to answer questions or provide guidance on a particular project,” April explains. She also keeps staff in the loop about helpful webinars and podcasts. “To shape the future, you have to help shape your team.”
“Women must be smart as they look for opportunities, and perhaps non-traditional opportunities, in construction,” advises Imani Milima, Assistant Project Manager, Eastman Cooke. “Who do you talk to, who are your mentors and sponsors? These are important factors to keep in mind for any woman looking to advance in the field,” Imani points out.
In addition, she says, it’s up to companies to realize the added value of maintaining a diverse workforce, and come up with more and smarter ways to develop and utilize women’s skill sets. “Employers must look outside ‘the way things have always been done’ to see the benefits of including more women across various levels and areas of work,” Imani says.
This is especially true when it comes to the current state of the construction industry. “There is a skills shortage and women are highly underutilized,” Imani points out. “We make up only 10% of the construction workforce.”
Anticipating challenges is crucial, Imani says. “The current environment brings challenges of space utilization, material choices, construction methods, and management,” she explains. “Therefore, everyone must be smarter as we move forward.”
Surround Yourself with the Right People
For women to rise up in construction, April and Imani highlight the importance of assembling the right influencers to achieve success.
“Allyship becomes essential for preventing women from being overlooked in construction,” Imani says. “Companies are hiring women, but we are now looking for real development. It requires a new approach and women must advocate for themselves.”
For April, generating support began at a young age. Her father worked in the construction industry and never failed to steer her on the appropriate path. He remains a mentor for her until this day. April’s late aunt also provided inspiration, teaching April how to build confidence and independence. “Rely on people who you trust the most to help grow your vision and make it a reality,” April says.
The Outlook is Bright
April and Imani never hesitate to recommend construction as a career choice for young women starting out in the field. And from what they can see, word is getting out. “I recently went for training and half the class were women,” Imani recalls. “That was truly awesome.”
Eastman Cooke Controller Melissa Fiore has also seen positive changes. “I started working in construction over a decade ago and I have seen doors open in all positions for women,” Melissa says. “The opportunities are there, we just have to take them.”
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