From left to right: Devin Marsh, Wendy Cooper, Kaitlyn McGrath, Madison Gerecke, Allie Bindert, Devin Foote, Hollie Lohman
We're proud to celebrate women in construction! We asked some of the women from our Washington DC-Federal and heavy civil operating groups currently working at the General Services Administration Training Center project in Virginia to share why they decided to pursue a career in construction and why more women should join this ever growing industry.
University of Colorado Boulder
2 years in the industry
Why did you choose construction as a profession? When looking at colleges in high school I made a list of all of the majors and crossed everything out that I didn’t want to do, which left me with civil engineering. When I was in college I had some really great professors, but the construction professors taught us what working in the industry would actually be like. I started to become more and more enthusiastic about being a part of a team that actually builds something tangible.
Why would you encourage other women to consider construction as a profession? There is no reason women shouldn’t be interested in a career in construction, it is fun and rewarding work.
What challenges or obstacles do you believe prevent Women from choosing construction and why should they not let those deter them? I think that no one suggests the idea to women so they don’t even consider it as an option. People treat it like it is an intimidating industry, but there is nothing for women to be afraid of that they wouldn’t experience in other male dominated fields.
Favorite Project and Why? The training facility project in Virginia has been my favorite project because I have a great team to work with and it is an extremely complicated project so I’ve been able to learn about many different types of work.
Three Rivers Community College, Norwich, CT
twelve years with a former electrical contractor and 3 years with Mortenson
Why did you choose construction as a profession? The construction industry kind of chose me. I worked as an Administrative Assistant for an electrical contractor for 12 years before joining Mortenson. I have always been fascinated with the process of seeing structures built from the ground up; including the handling and operation of large equipment.
Why would you encourage other women to consider construction as a profession? Construction is exciting and always changing. Every day is different and challenging. It’s a great feeling seeing the end result of a project and knowing you played a part in it. Also you interact with a variety of people: vendors, subcontractors, owners and team members almost on a daily basis. I have met some very interesting people.
What challenges or obstacles do you believe prevent Women from choosing construction and why should they not let those deter them? I think it may be intimidating for some women, after all, it is a male dominated career. I love seeing women being empowered and there are more of us joining the construction industry every year. Go Ladies!!
Favorite Project and Why? I was at a project that did repair and rebuild waterfront work at USCG facilities in New London, CT. Our jobsite trailer was directly across from the construction site. I watched the project develop from day one to completion. I witnessed the demo of an old wooden pier and the creation of a new concrete pier from hammering piles into the riverbed, concrete pours, delivering, lifting and placing of concrete slabs, etc.
Montana Tech of the University of Montana
1.5 years in the industry
Why did you choose construction as a profession? I chose construction as my professional because I like the constant change. I always feel like I am learning something new and no day is ever the same.
Why would you encourage other women to consider construction as a profession? I would encourage other women to consider construction as a profession because you have the chance to be the change we need in the industry and become a successful leader.
What challenges or obstacles do you believe prevent Women from choosing construction and why should they not let those deter them? I think one of the biggest challenges that prevent women from choosing construction is that the industry is a male dominant field and they fear that they will have to face and overcome many obstacles to become successful. I believe as long as you are willing to learn and put in the hard work, anyone (no matter their age, gender, race, etc.)., will be able to succeed in this industry.
Favorite Project and Why? The training facility project in Virginia is my favorite project because of all of the different scopes of work (both self-perform and subcontractor based) I have been exposed too and all of the different challenges that I have been faced with here.
Colorado State University
2.5 years in the industry
Why did you choose construction as a profession? I love the daily challenges and changes, no day is the same as the last. Being a part of something that you can drive by, or even drive on, one day and say you helped build that is really rewarding.
Why would you encourage other women to consider construction as a profession? Just because construction has been a male dominated industry doesn’t mean it needs to remain so. The diversity that women bring to the industry with different perspectives on everyday activities and different approaches to problem solving is what helps us perform at our best together as a company.
What challenges or obstacles do you believe prevent Women from choosing construction and why should they not let those deter them? I believe women tend to worry that they won’t understand some of the construction activities and won’t be able to keep up, but there are plenty of men that come into the industry with the same knowledge we have. We can’t let that stop us. By spending time out in the field with craft team members and really watching and learning what is happening, asking questions when you have them, you will be surprised by how quickly you pick things up. Additionally, women might also worry that the men will be tough on them, but as long as you go into your job putting in the effort and commitment to your job, you will earn the respect of the people around you, no matter your gender.
Favorite Project and Why? I really enjoyed my first project at Kings Bay Naval Base in Kings Bay, GA. Being the only engineer on the job gave me a lot of opportunity to run with a broad range of responsibilities and I learned a lot, including all of the different aspects to a federal project that not everyone has the chance to experience. I was an engineer with the Federal Contracting Group at the time but the internal partnership with the Civil Group gave me a chance to get involved in the civil and self-perform scopes, ultimately leading to my transfer to the Civil Group.
Penn State University
3 years in the industry
Why did you choose construction as a profession? From elementary school through college my parents would frequently ask me which handmade building models could be thrown away. Somehow I managed to incorporate a building model into almost every school project, including English and biology classes. The construction industry became a natural choice since I have always enjoyed building and thinking creatively through design or construction issues.
Why would you encourage other women to consider construction as a profession? While the science and engineering fields are growing in gender equality, women should be reminded that construction is a branch of these fields and that women are capable of exceling in the construction industry as a career. It’s also important to encourage young people to join positions in the field as the labor forces are rapidly declining and the addition of women to the work force could significantly boost numbers in the field since women are currently representing a small pool on project sites.
What challenges or obstacles do you believe prevent Women from choosing construction and why should they not let those deter them? It seems like women may not frequently have construction on their radar since it is still heavily male-dominant and rarely advertised as a field for women. If construction and problem solving are topics a woman enjoys, she should not let lack of advertisement or lack of female representation hold her back from pursuing a career that interests her.
Favorite Project and Why? The AC Hotel Minneapolis Downtown was my first Mortenson project. The huge learning curve and working largely on self-perform work always made the project interesting and exciting.
Illinois Institute of Technology
6 years in the industry
Why did you choose construction as a profession? I started out in design and ended up moving into construction afterwards. That opportunity made me appreciate the obstacles between designing in theory vs application of a design in reality. Job satisfaction for me is greatest when I can see physical progress and contribute to a completed product.
Why would you encourage other women to consider construction as a profession? I would encourage other women to consider construction because you get exposure to so many trades and skills. Every day you can learn something new and face a different challenge.
What challenges or obstacles do you believe prevent women from choosing construction and why should they not let those deter them? In my experience, construction wasn’t a widely discussed career path in engineering school. So in an educational setting where women were already a minority, they just weren’t getting exposed to all of the post-graduation options available. Industry leaders like Mortenson are taking steps to improve this by increasing presence at university career fairs and generating interest.
Favorite Project and Why? Project Management/General Engineering Consultant contract for Iowa DOT with HDR Engineering. I was on a diverse (and eclectic) team made up of some of the best resources from the company. They ranged from heavy construction background to specialized design to Geoga Geographic Information Systems gurus. It was a great learning experience to be surrounded by so many knowledgeable people.