Women in Construction: Helping to Build America’s Future

They’re still a minority, but they’re leading the way for the female workers of tomorrow.

Women make up only about 9 percent of construction workers. The field, dominated by men, is not a place for wallflowers. But construction does provide an avenue for women to express creativity, reap the benefits of a dynamic career and be a part of something that lasts.   


United Rentals, with the help of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), Women in Construction Operations (WiOPS), the International Union of Operating Engineers and the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Ironworkers, asked some women construction workers why they love their jobs. Here’s what they had to say.

“What I like most about construction is that every day is different. No cubicles for me!”

     — Cari Durbin, civil engineer at New York State Department of Transportation

“I love the diversity of each job and the different equipment I get to operate.”

     — Diane Mike, NAWIC 2016-2017 secretary, construction administrator at Erdman

“I love operating big-a** machines and it has provided a good life for me and my daughter and will give me a comfortable retirement.”

     — Kelly McClellen, Operating Engineers Local 101

“Construction has endless opportunities for personal and professional growth and a whole plethora of unique people and personalities…With all of the components involved with construction, it’s constantly mentally stimulating and fulfilling.”

     — Amanda Corbet, DBIA, LEED AP BD+C, contracts manager, McCarthy Building Companies

“What I love about my job is working outside, up in the air. Feeling the sun, rain and snow on my skin makes me feel alive.”

     — Liz Hozjan, Ironworker Local 725

“The thing I love most about being in construction is being a part of something bigger than myself.  I love going by a building, park, school, structure, and thinking…wow! I had something to do with that.”

     — Nancy Goldman, operations manager, Site Concrete Division, Granitex Construction Co., Inc.

“As a single mom, I was finally able to earn a decent living doing something I loved.”

     — Jan Jenson, retired from Ironworkers Local 377

“I love getting dirty, working hard, being strong, swearing and surprising everyone with my strength. Being an apprentice is great because I learn hands-on and I'm not expected to know everything. As time has gone on, my body has gotten stronger and my work easier as muscle memory and strength increases.”

     — Allison Adams, ironworker 

Construction is not without its challenges, but these women face those head on.

“It seems that I have to constantly prove myself to others.  People see me and think, ‘she doesn’t know what she’s doing’ — until I start speaking!

     — Nancy Goldman, operations manager, Site Concrete Division, Granitex Construction Co., Inc.

“The biggest challenge I have faced in construction is that there is still disparity in the industry. Women need to be recognized for their abilities on the same level as their male counterparts with regard to promotions and equal pay.”

     — Sandy Field, CBT, CIT, office manager at Horizon Group International

“People outside the construction industry frequently ask me if it’s challenging to be a woman in construction. They have some preconceived notion that women in construction are at a disadvantage. I take great delight in smashing this belief to pieces.”

     — Shavonne Thompson, project engineer, Hensel Phelps

While many women have benefited from a career in construction, they also have plenty of ideas on how the industry can change to encourage diversity.

“The industry needs to do a better job of increasing visibility of women employed in the industry and the positive impact they bring to employers.”

     — Connie M. Leipard, CIT, 2016-2017 NAWIC president, president and co-owner of Quality Drywall Construction

“Educating women and girls on the viability and numerous available opportunities for a professional career in the construction industry will increase the percentage of women entering the industry. One major benefit is the ability to transition from field work to office and vice-versa.”

     — Diane Mike, NAWIC 2016-2017 secretary, construction administrator at Erdman

“Women in construction need to get out in front of the young girls and women as often as possible. They need to share their ‘her-stories,’ because it is then that a teacher/mentor might reveal herself to the student/mentee who is ready to listen.” 

     — Catherine D. Schoenenberger, NAWIC 2016-2017 president-elect, owner of Stay Safe Traffic Products, Inc.

“For women who want to have a family and become successful managers, they need to see an example paving the way for them. The same goes for women who don’t plan to have children. It helps to know someone already succeeding with a similar life plan.”

     — Kasie Bowden, LEED AP, area superintendent, Hensel Phelps

“If women were more aware of the different trades and what they entail, I think there would be more women interested in giving construction a try.”
     — Dianne Bryant, operating engineer, Local 12 California

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Kim Slowey is a writer who has been active in the construction industry for 25 years and is licensed as a certified general contractor in Florida. She received her BA in Mass Communications/Journalism from the University of South Florida and has experience in both commercial and residential construction.