Earlier this month we celebrated Women in Construction Week and though we understand the importance of nationally recognizing the women who work in construction, we are lucky to be able to recognize the women who work at Beck Tech every day. Some of our team members started their careers at general contractors before transitioning over to the vendor side. We were interested to see how their experience has changed in the industry. We interviewed Kristin Vrana, Senior Implementation Specialist; Allison Lewis, Specialized Service Team Lead; Lauren Senska Implementation Specialist II; and Natalie Muñoz, Training Specialist.
What made you get into the construction industry?
Allison: I fell into it right after college. It was either get to work or keep racking up student loans. I started on the client-side with a utility company that I had worked with all through college as an intern, despite my degree being in counseling and psychology. Later, I made my way to a general contractor as an administrator in the field.
Kristin: Originally, I wanted to double major in architecture and photography. After talking to my neighbor about it, I took architectural and construction classes and immediately realized I had a construction mind. I’m so literal and not a designer. I have a construction and engineering brain. I interned for the Beck Group then worked for them right out of college to get started.
Natalie: I grew up in construction with my grandfather building a house by himself. I started seeing plays in middle school and decided my dream was to go to Hollywood and build theater sets. During college, I fell in love with construction and wound up just focusing on buildings, not sets.
Lauren: My stepdad was a construction lawyer so that’s how I got into the industry. I have an econ degree but have been at a general contractor since my first job.
How has the industry changed since you first started?
Kristin: Starting in 2004, dress codes felt very strict…pantyhose strict. No shoulders showing. It seems like construction has relaxed a bit in the larger GC world. If you read through the company policies when getting hired at any GC, it felt very much like a school dress code. Men used to have to wear ties on-site and they finally got rid of that. Still, in 2010, the dress code was around. After the recession, things became more casual. There’s less focus on what women are wearing now.
Natalie: Has it changed? Yes and no. When I first started, there were very few female engineers. No female execs or project managers. Most women in the office were in accounting or marketing. I was one of two women on a job site. As I’ve progressed, there’s now a female preconstruction director. So it’s a very slow progression to see women in the C-suites.
Kristin: In the early 2000s -2010, it was not uncommon for a women’s personality to come up in a review. Rather than performance, there used to be more focus on personality and appearance versus output and contribution. Strong assertive qualities like that were seen as immature or something to work on. That never came back up after 2018.
What do you love about being a woman in construction?
Lauren: I’ve never experienced such positive comradery among women. We’ve always grouped together and supported each other.
Kristin: I’ve enjoyed just being able to add a woman’s perspective. Being a good-idea contributor based solely on the female experience. Sitting in meetings with men and having a very different perspective is valuable.
Natalie: I want women to know that they can do what they want to do and be where they want to be. Don’t let anyone ever tell you no. They belong where they want to be.
Allison: Knowledge transfer has played a huge role in my career. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had so many people pour into me. The first moment where I got to teach someone else on the jobsite and have the confidence in myself to do it was really rewarding.
Kristin: On a jobsite, there are no power struggles. I had the attitude of wanting to learn and subs wanted to teach me.
Where do you want construction to be for women in the next five years?
Natalie: Ideally, I’d like it to be a 50/50 split. Women in the project management side, not just on the administrative. I’ve seen a female be pushed out of a company because of a strong attitude but she was good at her job.
Kristin: More C-suite representation across the board would be great. More diversity in the C-suite leadership.
Natalie: One company said, “we are so diverse” but they only meant the entry-level side. There were no [women] in leadership.
Lauren: Having a greater industry awareness of unconscious bias.
Kristin: It was funny because I did an unconscious bias training, and the men execs were asked ‘did your mother work or did your mother stay at home?’ and all of them had moms that stayed at home. So, whether they believe in women working or not, they still grew up with their mom not working. Parental leave is very under-covered in the construction industry. In order to attract more women to the construction industry, those benefits need to be standard. Hybrid work goes along with that or else you could be pushed out when you have a family.
Natalie: I was told I couldn’t be a superintendent because eventually I would get pregnant and have a family.
Kristin: Jobsites are not conducive to women taking time off for maternity leave.
Allison: Getting rid of all bias and everyone being treated according to their capabilities.
Kristin: I would hope in the next five years ideas are less performative and more engrained in the culture. These big construction companies are starting to have the right idea, it’s just going to take some time to move the ship. I’m hoping in the next five years the ship is moved.
Natalie: I think it’s the message from us professional women down can encourage kids to do what they want to do.
There are many organizations that can help teach young girls the skills they need to pursue degrees in male-dominated roles. Girlstart is one of many organizations to help increase girls’ interest and engagement in STEM.
What organization can you get involved with in your area to help? Tell us in the comments below.