The Growing Presence of Women in Construction

As part of Women in Construction Week (March 7-11), the College of Technology’s Cougars for Women in Construction partnered with the National Association of Women in Construction to host their first Mentoring Friday; an event that connected current female leaders in construction to students in our construction management program.

While the community of women in construction is still comparatively small, it is a growing community within the industry. In fact, our current enrollment of young women in the construction management program stands at 13 percent, which surpasses the national average of nine percent for female enrollment in construction management programs.

Sarina Landers, operations administrator at Karsten Interior Services and one of the event mentors, specifically referenced the increase in representation she has seen at career fairs and from young women entering the industry.

“You heard us say, ‘Yeah, it’s a male dominated industry.’ And I think it was just maybe that way for so long because people, myself included, didn’t know there were so many different facets of the industry,” said Landers.

Since 1953, the National Association of Women in Construction has grown to have over 115 chapters nationwide. It provides a professional network for women in construction to grow and collaborate with fellow professionals from various sectors within the industry.

Sidney Watts, a field engineer at Zachry Construction Corporation, elaborated on the benefit she has experienced during her time spent involved with outside organizations that provide networking and relationship-building opportunities.

“Every moment I spend on that I feel like it makes me more focused on my job,” said Watts. “[As a student], when you fill up your schedule with other stuff like organizations, it forces you to focus on your classes in a shorter amount of time and still be just as effective. And that’s the same when you’re working.”

Cougars for Women in Construction was founded this past year through a partnership formed by the young women in our program and Lingguang Song, who has a doctorate in construction engineering and management and is department chair for the construction management program.

Anahi Vasquez, president of Cougars for Women in Construction, hopes that this event encourages the young women in our program to continue their careers in this field.

“Having support and hearing the perspectives of others in the same field is all we need to feel inspired,” said Vasquez. “We partnered with NAWIC to provide that support to attendees by organizing a mentoring event where women who have already paved their way in the industry could sit down and mentor those who attended.”

Another mentor at the event, Leslie Reyes, a capital maintenance engineer at Zachry Construction Corporation, echoed similar sentiments. Reyes highlighted the professional development she has seen within herself because of her active role in professional organizations.

“I’m very partial to organizations within the industry mainly because I’m really shy and I have a really hard time speaking. However, that’s a skillset I worked on really hard with NAWIC,” said Reyes. “Having that opportunity to get pushed outside of my comfort zone, to be set up for success, to be given leadership opportunities… I took all of that skillset and brought it into work.”

These organizations represent the efforts of students and professionals in STEM industries that look to connect, grow and create collaborative communities for women.

Thanks to the efforts of the young women in our program, the mentors who attended the event, Song and others adopting an active role in creating inclusivity, women in these industries will continue to expand their reach in creating opportunities for success.