Mentoring The Next Generation Of Women In Construction
While it may take a village to raise a child, it takes a force of experts across a range of disciplines – design, architecture, HVAC, construction, and more – to bring the latest healthcare projects to life. With the industry poised for change, success depends on making sure these fields retain industry leaders while attracting the next-generation of professionals. But are we doing all we can?
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “The Tyranny of the Queen Bee” by Peggy Drexler, kicked off a heated discussion about women in positions of power and whether or not they’re adequately mentoring their peers, especially other women. “Though it is getting easier to be a professional woman, it is by no means easy. Some women—especially in industries that remain male-dominated—assume that their perches may be pulled from beneath them at any given moment ... Made to second-guess themselves, they try to ensure their own dominance by keeping others, especially women, down,” Drexler writes.
A new grassroots organization in Southern California kicked off the year with a mission to sharpen the skills of women in construction operations through a robust mentoring and networking program. Called Women in Construction Operations (WiOPS), the organization’s members say they saw a void in groups that address the specific needs and challenges of women in the field. “Any woman in any non-traditional field has more challenges just because of the way that we culturally address the different genders,” says Holly Cindell, project director for the healthcare group at McCarthy Building Cos. Inc. (Newport Beach, Calif.), and WiOPS co-chairwoman. “We decided we need to all get together and collectively share our experiences. We want to be a tool for all women in construction.”
According to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), there are fewer than 1 million women employed in the construction industry – which represents less than 10 percent of total workers in construction. WiOPS aims to help keep women in the operations side of the business by supporting them with career advice, mentors, and idea sharing. For its initial year, the group’s founding board, represented by women from various companies in southern California, plans to host meetings about every six weeks. Membership is open to all men and women in construction operations who are interested in being a mentor or mentee.
However young or small, the group is quickly realizing its potential. Cindell, whose career spans 26 years, says women as far away as Boston and Chicago have reached out to inquire about events and the group has registered more than 250 members since January. “We’re hoping women will look at us to be engaged and ask, ‘How can this group of women help me become a better leader, become better in construction, and help me stand taller and stronger?” she says.