Hey there, it’s Katie Meehan. The one who’s been slingin’ newsletters and social media posts your way for about a year now. Women in Construction Week ends today. I’ve been interviewing my female colleagues all week, and I wanted to leave you all with some food for thought. The resounding theme has been that it’s about mindset. I’ll share my story as well as some key takeaways and my personal suggestions on how I can think we can encourage more women to join us and feel welcome here. (If you’re looking for the other interviews, hear from our CFO, Raquel, and one of our Project Managers, Kayla).
Suggestions for Improvement
Statistics (though they’ve been very hard to come by)
- Females account for about 10.9% of the construction industry¹
- Having more women in senior leadership positions can lead to significantly increased net profit margins².
- This is because women are biologically prone to carefully analyzing things³.
I’ll give you a brief intro so you can understand who I am. Again, I’m Katie. I am proud to handle marketing at Franjo Construction and its affiliates. In my volunteer work, I serve as the Programming Director for CoreNet Global – Pittsburgh Chapter. I am on the Communications Committee of CREW Pittsburgh, another organization with over 75 chapters throughout the world. I mention CREW (Commercial Real Estate for Women) because its mission is to achieve gender equity and greater diversity in commercial real estate by advancing women.
Tell me about your journey in construction. How did you get into the industry? What path have you taken to get where you are now?
I worked at a commercial real estate brokerage firm but left to run my own marketing business. I very quickly realized how much I missed being part of a team, and how much I hated working from home alone. A friend and former co-worker from the CRE firm connected me to Franjo, and the rest is history! I’ve been here for a little over a year now.
Do you feel anything would have gone differently if you were male?
Maybe, but not much. I remember in a past life expressing interest in moving upward, and it wasn’t met with a reaction I expected. The questions I was asked came from a good place, but I’m not so sure they would have been asked of a man. Nevertheless, me figuring out the career I wanted coincided with my confidence blossoming. This led to me being more assertive and direct, especially when it came to my career ambitions. I would think that’s the same for anyone who’s young in their career. While I have occasionally been spoken to differently because of my gender, I have never felt like it held me back. Like my female co-workers, I am quick to shut down any unfounded comments. In other words, I don’t tolerate mistreatment.
There seems to be a lack of resources found online for supporting women in construction. What’s there seems vague, minimal, or non-committal at best. Why do you think that is? Do you think it’s an issue?
I’m sure it stems from a lack of women in the industry, which highlights an issue. My co-workers and I are hoping to encourage more women to join us. I think admin roles are dominated by women already. I don’t think those positions are always given the credit they deserve. You go a single day without an admin, and maybe you can make do, but how about a week? The tasks may seem menial or tedious to some, but they are essential.
Was the construction industry your goal?
Not specifically. I am a skilled content marketer, particularly for high-value service-based businesses. Construction just happens to fit within that broad category. Coming from brokerage, I understand the motivations behind brokers, developers, and users of commercial real estate.
Do you feel that you face any challenges in this industry based on being female?
Yes. My personality is often described as happy, bubbly, and smiley. I have frequently sensed that some people read that as shallow or as though I’m “trying to be cute,” and they take me less seriously. I don’t feel I should have to change anything about my personality to that end. I’m professional, approachable, dedicated, and my work speaks for itself.
I was lucky to get in with a forward-thinking firm.
Gender is inconsequential here, and that’s the way it should be.
Talent is talent. If you’re good at what you do, and you fit within the company culture, that’s all that matters.
I’d also like to mention that anytime I felt I was being slighted, I was careful to ask myself, “Would this happen to a man? Would this person speak that way to men too?” Sometimes that alone settled things.
Are you excluded from anything?
No, I’ve been approached by or involved with members of every department and almost all of our executive team. Sometimes there might be extracurricular activities that I opt out of because they’re usually sports-related. That’s not really a hobby of mine. I would like to learn how to golf though!
Are there any advantages to being a woman in the construction industry?
Yes, I fit into the findings from various studies, like the one I mentioned above about women being analytical. I often catch details that others don’t, or I bring up a point of view others wouldn’t have thought to consider.
Also having that sensitive, maternal side to me plays into my approachability. A lot of people open up to me, including those at the most senior level. Understanding their motivations help me to analyze an issue on a deeper level, coming up with more targeted solutions.
What changes need to be made to make the construction industry better for women? What can each of us do to support this?
Like most of my co-workers said,
we need to make sure the world is aware of the women who are already here and succeeding.
The more successful examples we can provide, the more motivated other women will be to join us.
Another common suggestion is a forum or networking group for women in construction. While it’s not specific to construction, CREW offers this.
What advice would you give to any woman who’s considering a career in this industry?
Call out anyone who mistreats you. Assert your ideas and opinions. Advocate for yourself. Find or join a group of peers if you feel you lack confidence. They will build you up.
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