Search “Construction Superintendent” on LinkedIn and after navigating through pages upon pages of profiles you will realize something: there is an obvious lack of women in the construction industry.
When Megan Hadden started her career in 2005, women made up an estimated 9% of the field workforce. Today this number is a staggering 2.6% according to a report released by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC).
As we at Boswell Construction place ads for Project Engineers, Superintendents, and Construction Managers, the number of female applicants are so few and far between that we all celebrate when one comes across our desk. Construction sites are often assumed to be filled with dust, dirt, and even danger but with a position like Superintendent, where the job description includes scheduling, budgeting and maintaining the safety of the team, the question at hand is: if women are assumed to run a household with a similar mindset, why are there so few running construction sites?
We sat down with Megan, a woman who has hammered down the wall of perception and began her career in the field building homes for Habitat for Humanity and is now president of One Point Development. We dug into everything from what brought her into the industry to what keeps some women out.
What was it that drew you to pursue a career in construction?
I have always been interested in design and architecture. I started my schooling in architecture school and quickly realized I wanted a more hands-on approach and understanding of the buildings and structures. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina – which gave me invaluable field experience in construction.
Why do you think there is such a lack of a female presence in the industry?
I think several things contribute to it; many females are not encouraged or even told that the industry is possible for them, the field is still male-dominated which can be intimidating and unfortunately still uncomfortable at first. Lastly, we often underestimate our own capabilities and doubt what we can do and achieve.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I like creating something for people. I like the fact that you can create something from nothing and build what was once just a dream to someone. It’s the ability to have the tools to make those dreams come to fruition that I’m always grateful for.
Do you think you face any extra challenges because of your gender
Unfortunately still in 2015 I do. I don’t generally believe that I’m at a disadvantage, or even realize or think about on a large scale the discrimination that women face, but throughout my career, I have had to continually battle against it. Age and experience have definitely taught me a lot including how to be more confident in what I know and what I can achieve and to ask for what I deserve. I also have learned that being an assertive woman is not a bad thing and it doesn’t make me an unpleasant person, but rather a person that is getting the job done in the same manner as her male colleagues.
Do you have any advice for women looking to get into the construction business?
Go for it. Don’t be afraid – women excel in this field because of qualities we possess that differ from our male counterparts. Build a support system that you can continually rely on – including a mentor that can help you navigate the many challenges.
With the need for qualified workers on the rise, the opportunity is present, yet the poor gender diversity still surmounts. Today there is nothing that should cause construction to be a male dominated field, women are just as educated, just as capable and in some cases, more determined to prove themselves.
For more information on education, support, and to network with women in the field visit the National Association of Women in Construction www.nawic.org