Women in Construction Week is an annual celebration of the role that women play in the construction industry. This year’s theme for WIC Week, “Keys to the Future,” honors the contributions that women make to the construction industry every day — from the job site to the boardroom — and the essential role they play in shaping its future.

To celebrate WIC Week, we asked women from across PCL about their experiences working in the construction industry and what the industry can do to prioritize inclusion. 

Q: How can women support the evolution of the construction industry?
A: Women come to the table with a different perspective. We process information, challenges and problems differently. When you have a different view on how to attack challenges, but everyone has the best interests of the project at heart, we can figure out the best solution for the project.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
A: I like to lead by example, so I would never ask a field engineer or project engineer to do something I wouldn’t do. I lead by teaching, mentoring and really building a connection with the team around me. I want to make the environment comfortable so anyone can walk into my office and ask me about a problem with feeling silly for asking a question.

Q: You volunteer as the logistics coordinator for a local Boys and Girls Club summer camp. How important is it to you to give back to that future generation?
A: To have young women see me as a role model, doing things they didn’t know they could do, is insanely important. I’ve had countless young ladies tell me, “That’s so cool you can do that!” It’s really exciting.

Q: How did you get into the construction industry?
A: I was a single mom working retail jobs to support my family when I found Women Building Futures. WBF provides free skills training and support services for women and gender-diverse individuals to prepare them for careers in the skilled trades, and their program gave me the tools I needed to build a better life for me and my two children. The solid foundation from WBF and my experience working as a welder after graduating gave me the financial stability and the confidence to go after the career I really wanted at PCL.

Q: What’s the biggest piece of advice you would give to women looking at a career in construction?
A: Stick with it, because it’s worth every difficult thing you do. It was hard at the beginning being the only woman in the room sometimes, but I’ve seen the tide slowly turn over the last 10 years or so. By celebrating Women in Construction Week, PCL is acknowledging the gender imbalance in the construction industry and letting women know we’re supported and they’re rooting for our success. We’re putting women in roles where they can grow and become mentors for other women. If you can see it, you can be it.

Q: What challenges have you overcome during your time in the construction industry?
A: Like many women, I still struggle with imposter syndrome — that feeling of doubt in your own skills, that you’re not good enough. But with the support and allyship of my mentors here at PCL, I’m overcoming that barrier. A lot of it is changing the way you talk to yourself, but that can be easier with people who support you 100%.

: How have you seen the industry change for the better during your time in construction?
A: On my first project six years ago, I was the only girl on site. There was one welder for a bit, but other than that, it was just me. I ran into challenges based on my gender and my inexperience. But since then, I’ve seen more and more women in positions of leadership that I can see myself getting into further down the line, and that’s really inspiring. As more women take on these big roles, it’s helping women coming into the industry see a path forward.

Q: How can we create more inclusive construction environments?
A: From what I’ve seen being in charge of the DE&I committee in Orlando, I think it takes individual buy-in throughout the company to create inclusive environments. It’s a matter of driving home that point to all employees and inspiring the people beside you create an inclusive environment. What has personally worked for me is speaking up in situations I know are unfair or can be a learning experience. A lot of times, people might not realize how their behavior or speech is affecting someone else. All you have to do is mention it in a polite way, and sometimes that opens their eyes.

Q: How bright is the future for women at PCL and in the construction industry as a whole?
A: I think the future for women at PCL is limitless. We’re moving exponentially toward a future where there’s no difference based on gender while you’re working here, and where your career path is based solely on your work performance and relationships.

Q: How have you seen attitudes toward women in construction evolve?
A: I’m a carpenter by trade and I've been in construction for more than 28 years. I can say that a lot has changed in the industry over the years. When I was in college taking carpentry, I was the only female out of seven classes. My teacher announced to the class that women belonged at home, barefoot and pregnant. I remember when there were inappropriate posters in trailers and taped to the toolboxes of the guys I worked with. Men would ask me if I was lost when I’d walk on site and they would stand over me, judging my skills. Every day was another struggle to prove myself and not quit. I had to work twice as hard as the guys on my crew just to be considered equal. And I did — I worked HARD!!

I never gave up, and I was motivated by the men that didn’t think I belonged. It actually pushed me to be better. I began managing crews at the age of 23 and became a foreman when I was 24.  Although I have had men wanting to see me fail, I have also had some amazing men take me under their wing helping me to succeed. I’ve had very positive experiences as a woman working for PCL. I feel that I get treated with respect and I’ve had amazing opportunities.

I think the construction industry has progressed a lot, and it can continue to attract more women by having more women leaders showing people what is possible. Decades after being in college, I returned there to teach a construction project management course. I also instruct at our construction association; there is a large presence of women in the classes. As a senior project manager, I mentor others and I recognize that people are unique. The more we embrace each other’s differences and appreciate people for their individuality, the more they will see what’s possible for them.  

Q: What advice would you give women considering a career in construction?
A: Don’t see yourself as different, don’t expect special treatment, and you need to be comfortable in your own skin. You’ve got to have grit to make it in construction. In the field, we work with people who are rough around the edges; that’s not for everyone. I expect the guys I work with to treat me the same as they would any other person on the team. Work hard, stay humble and strive for excellence every single day. I’ve taught my daughters that they can be anything they set their mind to. The only limits they have are the ones they place upon themselves. 

Q: How has working with other women in construction helped you grow?
A: I’ve learned from other women what a superpower it is to be feminine. The longest journey for me has been from my head to my heart. I’ve learned that by embracing my feminine qualities, I build stronger connections with others.