Women in Construction Week: The Grand Finale

As we bring Women in Construction Week to a close, the theme for this year’s WIC Week is resonating closely: “Be the Power in your Success.” This week’s interviews have shown the reward all types of women have seen from turning conceptual plans to reality, and it’s been an empowering experience.

Today’s interviewees are some unique ladies who have touched major accomplishments in their careers.

First, Hillary Leo, a Project Manager with Starbucks, offers strategic planning and construction oversight in new store and renovation construction projects. As a client of JH Greene, we’ve witnessed Hillary’s grasp on the industry first hand, and her responses to our interview questions highlight her flair:

  • How can women gain a seat at the traditionally male-only construction table? What practices can gain women an equal presence/regard in the industry?

I think the main obstacle is gaining respect.  Once you are respected, the traditional gender roles and expectations seem to be much less important than who you are and what a great job you do on a daily basis.  Instead of trying to be masculine and domineering, something that wouldn’t come naturally to me, I try to stand out by being more of myself and utilizing my own strengths to gain the respect of people around me.  One great way to do this is to ask informed questions—this is important because it shows your knowledge base while still being able to admit when you don’t know enough about something but would like to know more.  I have always found that when you appeal to people on a person to person level and ask them to help you understand something, they are eager to help bring you along and respect you for it.

  • What are some examples of moments where you felt being a woman in a male dominated project/situation provided a unique value?

I feel that as a woman, there are certain traits more common in women that I have been able to leverage throughout my career to be more competitive in a male-dominated industry and set myself apart.  I use my eye for detail on a daily basis to ensure that we are creating a quality product.  I also leverage my communication skills to ensure everyone involved in the project feels included and informed throughout the process.  I also use my empathy to better understand problems when they arise.  The combination of these traits gives me a unique approach to problem solving and often helps to find solutions that wouldn’t necessarily otherwise be possible.

  • How do we get to the point of breaking the male-only stigma associated with a construction career?

I am a big proponent of STEM in schools and providing girls with options in STEM at a young age.  That way, girls who have a natural interest in it will be provided opportunities to explore those interests and hopefully go into the industry.  Personally, I try to be the exception to biased expectations every day.  I always try to be a good example when I am on site by doing the best that I can, which hopefully will be noticed by the people with doubts about women in the industry and eventually change minds one person at a time.

  • Who is a woman that inspires you through their achievements in the construction realm? What traits do you believe have helped them become successful?

I really respect Sheryl Palmer, CEO of the home builder Taylor Morrison.  She doesn’t focus on the difficulty of being a woman in a male-dominated field, but instead has used her different perspective to bring more to the table and rise to the top.  I find it very inspiring.

  • Why do you believe the world needs more women in construction?

I think that we should provide more opportunities for girls and women to discover a natural interest in construction.  Women bring a different perspective to projects and I think they are certainly an asset to the construction industry. 

Cheers to that. Our next leading lady, Angie Kopach, is a close connection of JH Greene from the Blue Book Building & Construction Network. Angie is a resource for all trades, suppliers, general contractors, and facility managers seeking to connect and expand business opportunities through networking. One of her goals is to be an indispensable driver of success in the construction industry, and I have seen first hand her victories connecting our team with new service providers required for a project’s scope. I was thrilled that she was able to find some time in her travels to share her thoughts.

  • How can women gain a seat at the traditionally male-only construction table? What practices can gain women an equal presence/regard in the industry?

Regardless of all the changes in how we conduct business compared to years ago, there are some things that will always remain the same – the value of relationships, integrity, and hard work. To build lasting relationships, it’s helpful for everyone on a team to have different strengths. This really opens the doors for women to become a strong part of every group dynamic. Clearly demonstrating the value of a woman’s contribution is huge.

  • What are some examples of moments where you felt being a woman in a male dominated project/situation provided a unique value?

Women today are really offering a different perspective to understanding needs as well as troubleshooting and looking at opportunities through a distinctive lens. We’re able to bring some great strengths to the table. Also, women’s unique ability to nurture and grow relationships is something I’ve noticed first hand recently. There are many doors into an organization to build those relationships and women have been making their way into some hard to open doors.

  • How do we get to the point of breaking the male-only stigma associated with a construction career?

I think we were able to break the stigma by being involved at every level whether it’s preconstruction, engineering, or simply making a personal connection between a subcontractor and a GC at the right time. We’ve really been able to break the stigma by bringing our value and developing what we are able to contribute to the team every day. 

  • Who is a woman that inspires you through their achievements in the construction realm? What traits do you believe have helped them become successful?

There’s a few great women in general contracting firms that I could speak to in regards to inspiring me but the one thing that the handful of women that I’m thinking of bring to the table is that you wouldn’t know that they’re in a leadership position. They simply lead where they’re at.

  • Why do you believe the world needs more women in construction?

I think there’s some great opportunities for women in construction in this world today and I look forward to seeing how we’re going to continue to impact it.  

As today marks International Women’s Day 2019 and the end of Women in Construction week, we’re proud to have had the opportunity to speak with such influential figures. As many of our interviewees mentioned, the support component of female advancement is huge. We can truly see our strongest growth through lifting each other higher.