The week of March 7-13, 2021 we recognize and celebrate Women in Construction Week (WIC) and the many women who work in and make important contributions to our industry every day! We are pleased to share the stories from many of the women who work and live in NH and VT. The project was created in partnership with I Build NH and NAWIC Granite State Chapter.
I knew I needed a career that allowed me to be outside and hands on. That’s exactly what construction is, along with working with great people. The industry also gives me the chance to explore a bit whenever one job wraps up and a new one starts. Versatility of work and location keeps me refreshed which essentially keeps me invested.
I love that I can lay pipe one day then be in a rear dump the next month. Another great thing about what I do is seeing progress on a job. It’s satisfying knowing what you’re doing makes a difference. Everyday that I go home dirty and tired enough for a good night’s sleep is a day I’ve won. That’s what I’ve learned throughout life, hard work is rewarding. It’s as if every sore muscle, callous or bruise is an earned trophy. I am always proud to tell people what I do.
What is your education/training background?
I went to community college after high school and after three years graduated with my associates degree in Civil Engineering. I also have my OSHA 30.
How did you find yourself working in the construction industry?
The tough part about beginning in the construction industry is experience, what makes it harder is being a female starting out. It’s bad enough most companies require 2-5 years of construction knowledge before joining their team, they also don’t take females seriously, I’ve learned from experience.
It took me a few tries to get in. I’d apply and call but the companies I applied to never got back to me. The one interview I did get was with a smaller construction business in Concord NH. They sat me down and told me I wasn’t what they were looking for because their atmosphere was about hardworking men and I would make people uncomfortable, and or I wouldn’t keep up. This was without giving me a chance.
All it takes is giving a chance to see what someone’s actually capable of, instead of judging and assuming. I was on the verge of giving up when I sent my application to Sargent. I felt defeated, I thought to myself, they’ll never hire me, I’m being naïve. Yet I applied and before I could call them they had called me asking for an interview. When I walked in I was sure they’d look at my size and height and tell me to leave, but HR hired me on the spot and I am forever grateful.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
I can easily say I enjoy the people I work with, everyone becomes family. It’s special to see so much talent in foreman and operators, especially those that have been here for thirty plus years. Here, each individual person is valued, rather than dollars. That’s what’s important to me, that the biggest investment is in the people.
I’ve been given so many opportunities to gain knowledge in something new or even improve in things I’ve learned. I was given the opportunity to gain my OSHA 30 within my first year, I’ve operated equipment I never knew I would, and I’ve worked on some pretty challenging projects.
Another great thing is that there is confidence that the value of work getting performed is no less than our best. People I work with care about value and take pride in work and also our machinery too. Equipment stays clean, maintained, and for the most part, unscratched. Those are the values I am confident enough to stand behind and that’s what I love most because I can trust that I am accepted here and I can be proud of what I do because we strive to get it done the best we can.
What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?
The Antrim wind farm was the first job site I had ever been on. It holds significance to me in being that it was my first location in construction but also because I love wind turbines. The funniest thing is I lived in Antrim at the time and before I applied to Sargent I would always try to sneak up the mountain to see what was going on but I was too nervous so I never did. I had no idea Sargent was the earth work contractor for the Antrim wind farm till the end of my orientation. They told me the address I was sent to and I was confused why they were sending me to my hometown. That’s when they told me Sargent was working on the access roads to the towers. I was dumbfounded and knew in that moment, I was meant to be here. The job will always be special to me.
What advice do you have for women who want to work in the construction industry?
I made a mistake once when someone asked why more women should join construction. I said because not everyone has to be rough and tough to be in the industry. I was so mad at myself afterwards because why can’t women be rough and tough? I mean it’s what I strive to be. So go do it, go be rough and tough.
Work hard, be okay with working harder than a man, show off your strength, it is inspirational, it’ll turn heads. Someone doubts you? Prove not to them but to yourself that you can do it.
It is one thing that does drive me crazy, there’s so many people looking after me and with good intentions they’ll try to help me when I don’t need it. It makes me feel incapable, weak and belittled. Don’t let it make you feel that way, as much as I hate it, be willing to accept help.
Furthermore accept criticism, don’t assume people are attacking you all the time. Sometimes humans fail, it’ll come and you’ll learn and you’ll be better after, embrace failure. Be willing to work with and not against your coworkers. In the end, you are a team and the team is always more fun, more successful and more powerful when all the parts work together.
Don’t go in demanding respect with your words but demand it in your actions. Be wary of what you might face but never go into anything, not just construction, ready to fight your way through. Come in knowing you may struggle to earn respect or trust from fellow workers but know it is possible. Sometimes I find women feel the need to over compensate themselves to prove their capability, so they get cocky. Always stay humble and people will respect you for it. Go do what you want ready to improve yourself and not ready to prove someone wrong. In time anyone who doubted you will be proven wrong, wait for your moment, don’t force it. If you work hard it will not go unnoticed. So invest in your coworkers and into the company, there will be a return. Do so, but not always with the mindset of the gain because to give is the best part of life. Lastly, be you, be confident yet humble, be rough and tough.
Go forth and conquer ladies.
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national construction industry trade association representing nearly 21,000 chapter members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 70 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically, profitably and for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. ABC’s membership represents all specialties within the U.S. construction industry and is comprised primarily of firms that perform work in the industrial and commercial sectors.
I Build New Hampshire
I Build NH represents the construction sector of the state through the Sector Partnerships Initiative (SPI). I Build NH represents companies involved in heavy construction like municipal water treatment systems and road building, electric and telecommunication infrastructure, civil engineering, heating/ventilation/air conditioning businesses and more.
National Association of Women in Construction
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) has over 115 chapters throughout the United States, including the NAWIC Granite State Chapter. NAWIC provides its members with opportunities for professional development, education, networking, leadership training, public service and more. NAWIC advocates for the value and impact of women builders, professionals and tradeswomen in all aspects of the construction industry.