Construction is a competitive industry. We’re doing serious work, and everybody wants to build the most impressive and innovative structures, on time and on budget. That spirit is pushing the boundaries of the way building happens.
As more women join construction, the diversity of viewpoints helps to move the industry forward and push these boundaries. While women are slowly seeing construction as a viable career option, both in the field and office, attracting and retaining women in the industry remains a challenge. In fact, only 17% of the construction workforce is made up of women, both in the office and on site, and that number has grown by only 4.4% since 2006. One of the big reasons is a lack of role models. Industry leaders need to embrace the change and be part of creating a positive future by ensuring their female workforce feels supported.
How to Find a Mentor
Early on in my post-secondary studies I began to look for successful women mentors in the industry. I stumbled upon a small ad seeking potential members for a steering committee that a few women were looking to put together. I reached out in response and was able to connect with a dozen women who were already established in their careers. This became the Manitoba Women in Construction (MWC) Steering Board, and was the most invaluable opportunity for me to meet my future cheerleaders and confidantes.
What I got is what I think we all need in our careers: I got to see a collection of professionals that wanted to improve the industry for women. I got to hear their stories about how they felt going into the industry, what it was like their first couple of years, and how they persevered through struggles being a minority in construction.
After having been on this committee for several years I get to do this for other women. In our work with MWC we get calls and emails from people who are looking for that same connection. Now we can let them know that there are great communities just like ours all around.
Importance of Finding Someone Like You
As kids, we start to envision what we’ll do with our lives. Growing up my sister and I helped my dad with his many construction projects and house flips. With no boys in the household, it was she or I who’d lend a hand as my father moved staircases, changed out windows, and plumbed in new fixtures.
I went into construction and immediately knew it was going to be a rewarding career. Many women aren’t so lucky, and never get the opportunity to see working in construction as a possible career path. As soon as I began schooling in construction, I fell in love with its multiple facets: the different projects, from bridges to buildings, and the different career path options, from carpenters and electricians to surveyors and estimators. There’s no getting bored.
Representation matters: girls and women have to be able to see others in these jobs to see themselves in it, too. Even after I’d been in school for a couple of years, I needed to see for myself whether any successful women even existed in my field.
Networking is Key
They say it’s not what you know, but who you know. That’s why networking is so important in any industry. For women, who are still a minority in construction, it’s especially important to make connections to assist your forage up the career ladder.
The events that Manitoba Women in Construction (MWC) hold are educational, or they can be straight-up networking events. Some are a mix of the two.
For women out there who might be just one of few females in your office, or women in your class – know you’re amongst company. If you don’t find organizations around you, consider starting one up. Manitoba Women in Construction started up and has since flourished simply because some women sought out camaraderie. Ask your employer. You’d be surprised at the support you can get, and give others, through this endeavour.