Women in Construction: A Look at Leadership in Action
When I started in construction over 16 years ago, less than 9% of the industry was made up of women. Today, women still represent only 11% of all people working in construction. As we celebrate Women in Construction (WIC) week, I reflect on how far we have come and the opportunities that lie ahead, especially as our industry continues to be challenged to meet its growing needs. in manpower.
For me, WIC week is more than just a week about celebrating women’s impact and accomplishments, it’s about creating action and opportunities for more women to consider pursuing a career in construction. There has never been a better time to shine a light on the impactful work of women in construction and how rewarding construction careers can be. I hope that by sharing my story and that of others, more women will see that they too can thrive here.
READ ALSO: CRE’s Most Influential Women: Antonya Williams
I love telling the story of my beginnings in construction, and it all starts with my father. I started working with him in the family business of residential and commercial construction, doing whatever was necessary – transporting materials, installing finishing work, writing specifications and managing office work. It not only introduced me to the industry, but also taught me a strong work ethic that I enjoy building.
This passion drove me to complete my construction management degree and take on an operations role with McCarthy in Northern California, which exposed me to the complex and challenging construction of healthcare and education. Not only did I cut my teeth on big construction jobs, but I saw the impact these projects had on my community. My interest in connecting personally with customers and communities grew and I pursued another opportunity in my company. With management support, I made the decision to move from California to Arizona to work for Justin Kelton in our Southwest region.. It was no small decision for me, but when he pledged to “let me run” I knew it was the right decision and never looked back.
Although my career path is not what many consider traditional, it has provided personal and professional growth at every turn through challenges and learning opportunities. Throughout it all, I had incredible support from many mentors. Experiencing the success that came with this support gave me a deep passion for mentoring others, especially women.
In honor of WIC week, I would like to recognize several pioneering women. They inspire others every day through mentorship, training and community involvement.
I strongly believe in the importance of mentoring. I met my mentor Chuck early in my career. He taught me to intentionally set goals and work to achieve them and to build a strong network at work and in the community. I followed his advice and with the help of other mentors along the way, I learned not to be afraid of failure and the importance of showing up for others. Thanks to the male and female mentors I have had over the years, I have a mentorship model that I strive to share with others.
One of my mentees is Cierra, who I connected with through Big Brothers Big Sisters. I’ve been his Big for over 11 years and although we now live in different states, we’ve established a lifelong relationship. Last year, she graduated from high school as a valedictorian, overcoming a lot to earn this honor. Additionally, I have had the honor of supporting mentoring programs such as New Pathways For Youth (NPFY) and ACE Mentoring.
Thanks to NPFY, I have seen the remarkable impact of our industry. Several of my partners mentor young people through this program, including Michaela Rempkowski. I had the pleasure of working with Michaela and am proud of how she drives it forward by serving as a mentor. Young people really benefit from being involved Michaela and other members of our team and the construction industry share their experience, support and encouragement. Maybe some will be inspired to join us in the construction industry.
With ACE Mentorship, our industry has introduced and supported young people pursuing careers in architecture, construction and engineering. During COVID, we remodeled our program and expanded it statewide, more than tripling the number of participants.
We know these programs work. We see the impact one person at a time. As vice president of ACE Arizona, I personally mentored several women, including Sydney, whom I met through the program. She now works at Amazon in design and research. Blanca, who also went through ACE, is currently pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering at Rice University.
The generosity of many members of our industry continually impresses me. I have seen individuals, teams and partners stepping in to help by supporting families and organizations in need.
Recently, McCarthy’s Heart Hats volunteers and business partners supported the construction of Kaylee’s Playground. Kaylee is an 8-year-old girl with a rare genetic mutation that caused her to lose her ability to walk and talk. Her family needed help building ramps so she could play with her siblings on their playground.
Charity Carr, another construction leader who is doing remarkable things including building healthcare facilities, took immediate action to help Kaylee’s family after hearing their story. Charity led the volunteer effort to transform the family’s backyard playground into a wheelchair-accessible wonderland by adding a wheelchair lift, specially adapted swing set, new sidewalks, paint and artificial grass.
Charity impacts the lives of others in our community. Her compassion and energy raises awareness of the challenges families face and engages others in meaningful ways.
Lighting the Way for a Construction Career Path
For years, our industry has worked to engage the next generation in construction through programs such as Construction Career Days (CCD) and Build your Future Arizona. These programs offer young people an opportunity to learn more about construction and the potential of a career in construction.
Through partnerships with these organizations and others, McCarthy engages students in hands-on training at our Innovation and Craftsmanship Center (ICWC), a state-of-the-art crafts training facility dedicated to assist the next generation craft workforce and those currently in the trades with the development and advancement of their skills. It also provides hands-on training and real-world application for our in-house precast operations.
Those who attend ICWC programs will likely meet Amber Shepard, McCarthy’s Self-Execution Manager, who facilitates craft training programs at ICWC. With her experience and deep perspective in the trades, Amber’s relationships with project superintendents help meet current and future needs in the field. She is also well known for her involvement with CCD and the Arizona Builders Alliance (ABA) where her passion for the trades has encouraged others to consider this rewarding career path.
Another program supporting women in construction is that of the ABA Women in Leadership Program. A recent participant in the program is Tuyet Jacobson, who started at McCarthy as an intern and is now a senior project manager. Tuyet’s introduction to construction helped his father with home improvement projects. At ASU, she was introduced to the construction program and realized that was the career she wanted to pursue. Eight years ago, I was able to introduce him offer letter to join McCarthy and she joined our solar preconstruction team. Tuyet moved to the educational services group where she is thriving.
It runs educational projects and takes the opportunity to support young people interested in the construction industry through the Del E. Webb Construction School Alumni Association and CACTUS (Careers in Architecture, Construction and Trades Uplifting Students). Tuyet has inspired me since our first meeting, and I’m proud to see her grow and flourish professionally and personally.
Rumor spreads among the women that the construction is a great place. In fact, over 40% of McCarthy’s summer interns this year are women!
Initiatives like WIC week have an impact. I encourage everyone in the industry to pass on this week’s messages to the other 51 weeks of the year. Women, alongside our male counterparts, not only help bridge the workforce gap, but also bring skills, perspective, leadership and community engagement to the industry. I believe that together we all do better.
Antonya Williams is Executive Vice President of McCarthy construction companies.