Meet Kayla Timulak, a project manager with Franjo Construction. Kayla is one of the best examples we can think of when it comes to having women in construction. She is a very talented project manager, which is why she is managing our largest project to date: Arsenal 201. She’s also very personable and approachable. She treats everyone at all levels with the same amount of respect. There is a reason you’ll hear people saying things like, “I love working with Kayla.”
Kayla has been with us since 2018, but she’s been in the industry for over 15 years. With it being Women in Construction Week, we thought we’d carry out a different kind of employee interview.
Tell me about your journey in construction.
My goal in this industry was to be a superintendent, and I was for a while.
At one point, someone told me that women are not superintendents, but I shut that down quickly.
Eventually, I was offered a Project Manager role and, while it wasn’t my goal, I took it because it’s looked at as more of a leadership role.
Do you feel anything would have gone differently if you were male?
Not really. The first part of my career was in the south, and I noticed that not only are there way more females in construction there, but they also seem to be more welcome in construction in the south. [Kayla’s observations seem to be in line with the statistics. The statistics are difficult to quote, as they appear to vary from source to source. One report¹ indicates women made up 10% of the construction industry as of December 2019, while the U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics² seems to indicate it’s closer to 4.0-8.4% based on whether we’re looking at the field or office.]
Moving up to the north, I did have a man speak down to me. He openly said that he didn’t have to listen to me because I’m a female, meanwhile, he was my subordinate. My solution was to just let the situation play itself out.
There doesn’t seem to be many 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’ve never found myself in a position where I had to research this information, so I have been fortunate. My colleagues and Frank & Joe have not only embraced the fact that I’m a female who can participate in this arena, but they’ve helped me to succeed because of it. I’ve seen other situations where a female is looking to climb the ladder, but it’s a slow climb. Other times, someone is promoted solely because she’s female, and if she can’t perform, that only furthers someone’s reasoning for not wanting to promote females.
Was the construction industry your goal?
Not at first. I went to school for Architecture and got my Master’s Degree. I realized after 2.5 years into a 5-year program, I didn’t want to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life. I was also interning at an architectural firm and realized I could not design things if I didn’t know how they were going to actually get built. I worked with someone whose niece worked in construction, and that’s when my interest piqued. It didn’t make sense to switch educational paths, but I knew I would end up in construction.
What are some of the challenges you face as a woman in the construction industry?
Lack of respect in a man’s world.
Not being taken seriously.
Being perceived as not good enough to be in the industry.
Not having enough successful examples.
Do you feel there are any advantages to being a woman in the construction industry?
No, and I don’t think there should be. Maybe the only benefit would be that I can become that successful example.
What changes need to be made to make the construction industry better for women?
We need to change the mindset that overwhelms the industry. Start with some examples of women who have succeeded in leadership positions, both in terms of career success and being someone people look up to and feel comfortable with. The industry needs to be generally more welcoming to women and break the stigma.
What advice would you give to any female who’s considering a career in this industry?
Believe in yourself.
Don’t let ANYBODY tell you you can’t do something.
Always be humble about somebody with prior experience offering training. Show respect to all the people in the field who have been doing this for years, as they can teach you the world. Truly.
We mentioned Arsenal 201 – the project Kayla is managing. Phase II is currently under construction. Check out our March 2021 update video here.
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