When it comes to male-dominated industries, construction is near the top of the list.
The scarcity of women in this industry isn’t limited to only on-site positions; women are largely underrepresented throughout all of the roles within construction. Statistically, women make up only 9% of the workforce.
Despite the stigma, these women are breaking barriers and are forces to be reckoned with. Many women who choose a career in the construction industry are faced with obstacles; but overcoming them is helping push the industry in a new direction. Millstone Weber’s own Erin Garner is one of these leaders.
Garner’s plan for her life did not initially involve construction. “I actually went to college for nursing and still have my RN license,” she said.
However, she was in-between nursing jobs and faced with one question: what now?
“My step dad, who was a superintendent for Fred Weber, told me it is a challenge to find women interested in the construction field. I told him I wanted to try it, signed up for the laborers apprenticeship program, and was working that same week. That was 2003.”
Though Garner was excited to be on a new path, the transition wasn’t easy. Going from nursing to construction, especially for a woman, was not a common career path.
“People tell me I’m crazy for giving up a stethoscope for a shovel. How can I, at 5 feet tall, build a highway? It didn’t take long for me to realize it wasn’t just a bunch of muscle-bound, big guys out there. It is a team effort; I just had to find where I fit.”
She admits to knowing that some of the guys didn’t want her there. However, those stares, laughs, and rolling eyes lit a fire under her and pushed her to work harder. She had a point to prove, but she also knew those who doubted her didn’t measure up or matter nearly as much as those who supported her.
Garner realized, even though women in construction are not common, the majority of the workforce just wants a driven individual who brings something to the team. The goal is to find the job where you fit and push yourself to do the absolute best you can.
However, that is easier said than done. These statistics and stigmas can be extremely intimidating to young girls who may want to pursue a career in construction. Garner’s advice to those girls is to not let that fear control your decisions.
“Don’t let anyone discourage you. It can be tough sometimes but you are part of the team! Stick with it.”
Whether it be a bridge or a highway, a skyscraper or a mom-and-pop coffee shop, you are a part of a team that moves the community forward. Man or woman, it does not matter. The construction world – and world in general – is so much more than your gender.
“I love the construction industry because when I leave at the end of the day, the job looks different than 8 hours earlier. It’s such a good feeling to drive down a highway or cross a bridge and tell my kids, ‘I helped build that.’ But most of all, I love the people I work with. They are my second family!”
So, if you’re a woman curious about the construction industry but are hesitant to make a move…girl, we get it. But don’t let that stop you. Reach out! Send us a message on Facebook, shoot us an email, call us and chat about opportunities. We would love to talk to you!
Beyoncé said it best: Who builds the world? Girls!
(Well, technically she said “Who runs the world,” but both are true.)
That’s all for now. Blog at ya later!