Women in Construction Week | March 4-10, 2018
In an industry that employs more than 10 million people in the United States, women make up merely 9% of the workforce.
NewSchool is proud to be breaking the mold.
In Winter 2018, women make up 23% of the total Construction Management population at NewSchool of Architecture & Design, more than two and a half times the national average.
To celebrate Women in Construction Week, we spoke with two female alumnae of our Construction Management programs and got their thoughts on what it’s like to be a woman in the construction industry.
Athena Dadiz graduated from NewSchool with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture in 2014 and became a Master of Construction Management in 2015.
Amanda Schilling graduated from NewSchool with a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management in 2016.
Why did you choose construction?
Athena: My experience at NewSchool actually led me to construction. Out of high school I started studying architecture, and in my third year I got really involved in the Construction Management program and became more interested in those classes than the ones I was taking. I decided to do the 4 year architecture program instead of the 5 year one so I could get my Master’s in Construction Management at NewSchool, too. For me, construction is where the magic happens – the cranes, the deep foundations, all the people – it is exciting! I chose construction because it really is a team sport and it is amazing to see it all come together.
Amanda: I chose construction because my dad currently works in the industry and he enjoys what he does. Once I started taking classes that were focused on my major, I became hooked. I started an internship with Hensel Phelps while I was still in school, and watching something being built from the ground up is very cool to see. There are so many components and details that go into this type of work that a lot of people don’t realize, which makes it that much more exciting for me.
Who inspires you?
Athena: I have been lucky to learn from working closely with some exceptional women. My project manager, Stephanie, inspires me because she is a young woman that is strong, intelligent, well-spoken and knows her stuff.
Amanda: My family and friends inspire me. They are who keep me motivated day to day and help me push towards my goals. Of course, my superintendent helps to push and guide me to where I want to be in my career, but ultimately my family and friends keep me motivated to do what I want to do, which is building!
What has been the most surprising part of being a woman working in construction?
Athena: I have experienced a lot of mentorship and comradery with my team and subcontractors. Onsite, it surprises me how willing people are to share their knowledge with we, be patient, and take me under their wing once they see I’m willing to learn and work hard.
Amanda: I don’t think I have been surprised by anything by my being a woman working in construction. I think if anything, the men tend to be more respectful and professional when I’m around versus when I am not.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Athena: All new project engineers deal with being young and working with people who have been in the industry for 20+ years. I have been told that I was hit with a double whammy of being young and a woman. The biggest challenge has been proving myself and reaching a shared understanding. Being in construction and being in the field, you can’t help but notice the differences in the ways that men and women interact and learn on the job. I think part of being a good leader is identifying the differences and adjusting management techniques accordingly. My impression of the construction industry is it’s very welcoming and a supportive environment for women. Good companies know that a high-performing team is a diverse team and seek female talent.
Amanda: The biggest challenge is that I will get second guessed in what I am talking about. So, I verify that the information that I am providing or talking about is accurate. Again, this is not surprising or a disadvantage to me. If anything, I’m a stronger employee than others who don’t do as much research.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?
Athena: Network and look for a mentor – it doesn’t always have to be a formal platform. Look for people who you can go to when you have an issue. Also, work on defining your own voice and building confidence in professional situations. Even if you don’t know something, you can find the answer to it.
Amanda: I would advise anyone starting out (man or woman) to be humble and stay focused. There is a lot to learn and school teaches you about 10% of what you need to know out in the field. Ask a lot of questions, work hard, do the research, and be open and willing to learn. And this is advice that people can take going into any field of work. You will know some stuff but there is SO much more to learn once you are actually living and breathing it.
Women in Construction (WIC) Week is a time to highlight women in the construction industry. By raising awareness of the many opportunities that women have in the field, emphasizing the increasingly important role they play, and giving them a platform to share their experiences, women are leading the way for diversity and change in a traditionally male-dominated industry.