Since its start in 1971, Women’s Equality Day has been annually recognized on August 26. The day highlights women’s progress—from the right to vote, to increasing inclusivity in the workplace.
Historically, women have not made up a significant part of the construction workforce. In 2018, women made up only 9.9% of the construction workforce. Making equality within the construction workforce possible means providing women with the resources, training, and support to continue to add value to the construction industry.
To celebrate this year’s Women’s Equality Day, we’re highlighting the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). Read on to learn about NAWIC’s mission, how they support women in construction, as well as some tips they have for women entering, or already in, the construction industry.
Supporting women in construction through mentorship and education
With nearly 5,000 members and the tagline, “Leading Builders. Building Leaders.” NAWIC provides resources and mentorship for women participating in one of the 115+ chapters spread throughout 47 states. This makes NAWIC an essential resource to women in construction across the nation.
Each chapter holds regular meetings, as well as social events throughout the year. But there is much more to NAWIC than simply networking and mentorship—chapters also sponsor educational programs in construction areas like technical, management, and leadership skills. NAWIC’s sister organization, NAWIC Education Foundation (NEF) even offers formal education and certifications.
But at the heart of NAWIC are the boots on the ground women making an impact. Here are a few of these women, and the work they’re doing to move women’s equality in construction further along.
Image source: NAWIC National
Judaline: A plumber with a nonprofit
Judaline C., a Union Plumber, started the nonprofit Tools and Tiaras to educate young girls in plumbing and construction. Her motivation? “I want girls to know they never have to compromise and they can be whatever they want to be.”
Judaline herself had wanted to become a lawyer but couldn’t afford to go to law school. She instead decided to go to a trades school, where she became a plumber. The good news? She absolutely loves plumbing.
While she’s not what others expect a plumber to look like—her first day at a jobsite is usually met with plenty of surprised faces—she inspires women of all ages to join an industry in need of talent.
With her nonprofit Tools and Tiaras, she’s actively investing in educating another generation of women that jobs don’t have genders—and they, as women, can succeed in the construction industry. Her just being a woman in a male-dominated field means she often receives messages from women saying she’s inspired them to pursue plumbing.
“I believe in the sisterhood of women,” says Judaline. This mentality is one she encourages others to take, as this sisterhood will continue to move women forward in construction—and whatever else women set their minds to.
Jillian: Creating new spaces for support and construction education
Jillian P. has been a member of NAWIC’s Rochester, NY chapter for nine years, where she served on the board and as chapter president. But she has continued to grow NAWIC’s reach by starting a new Buffalo Niagara chapter. To bring this chapter to life, she needed to search out 25 women to make up the chapter. She found 32 women, and on January 28th, 2021, NAWIC had a new Buffalo Niagara chapter.
For Jillian, NAWIC has supported her friendships, career, and professional growth throughout the last 10 years. “NAWIC taught me how to be a professional woman and how to support and cultivate growth in the women around me.” Knowing the impact NAWIC has had on her life, she encourages others to invest their time in NAWIC, too. “I promise that you will get back every ounce of energy you put into your membership with NAWIC.”
Jillian’s goal for this new chapter is to create a place for women in construction to find mentorship—whether as a mentor or mentee. She also hopes to create relationships with local schools and students, to encourage and support more young women to enter the construction industry successfully.
Jillian’s belief that there are more women needing support to continue developing in their career—or to even choose a career in construction—has led her to start this new chapter. Her example reminds other women to continue forming these supportive networks within the construction industry.
Karli: Mentoring the next generation of construction professionals
Karli M., a preconstruction manager for wind/solar projects, is a part of NAWIC’s Omaha, NE chapter. She’s grateful for the many resources she has gained through NAWIC and notes that NAWIC helped her grow her professional confidence. It has also been her way of keeping up with relevant news in Omaha’s construction industry.
Outside of NAWIC, Karli has over 20 years of experience working for a mechanical contractor. She is now in a leadership role as a preconstruction manager, working with owners and project teams.
All this experience is something she’s brought to NAWIC, where she’s been a member for 11 years. She’s grateful for the mentorship and volunteer opportunities—especially opportunities with local colleges and trade schools—that NAWIC has provided. These have given her a way to give back and share her expertise with others looking for mentorship and advice.
For Karli, one of the most rewarding parts of NAWIC is getting to see “the development of the next generation”. She appreciates the opportunities to share her experiences and expertise.
The importance of supporting women in construction
NAWIC is one of the few resources for women to find support in a male-dominated industry. Having networks like this—especially ones that educate students on potential construction careers—is incredibly important as there is an increasing need for skilled workers.
Regardless of whether you are a NAWIC member, the call to support women in construction by providing resources, advice, or mentorship, is one that anyone in construction can follow. If you’re a woman in construction, consider joining a NAWIC chapter in your area.