Women in construction: You don’t need to be one of the guys

BRIDGIT | Feb 5, 2017

Every year, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) dedicates a week to celebrating the role of women in construction and bringing awareness to the opportunities available in the industry. The Bridgit team is joining this effort, by highlighting successful female construction professionals whom we’ve had the privilege of working with.

Happy International Women’s Day & Women in Construction Week!

In this edition, we spoke with Kristina Doucet, a Safety Manager and Superintendent at Leader Mechanical Construction Ltd., who loves construction so much that it’s not only her day job, but her nighttime hobby as well.

She’s been in the construction industry for about 16 years, working on industrial and commercial projects. In her spare time, she enjoys taking on residential projects. “We take single-family homes and make them into income properties,” Doucet explains. “Have you ever seen Income Property with Scott McGillivray? We do that every night.”

Although Doucet paved the way for many women in construction, she cites her own mindset as being the biggest roadblock to her success.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the construction industry?

“My family is into construction, so the minute I could throw a hammer, I was helping out the family. It was quite a neat way to start because I got to work with my family.”

“In 2000, I started my apprenticeship as a plumber, and I haven’t stopped since. I just enjoy it so much. I told myself when I started, I would not stop unless either I disliked it or I stopped making money and progress. For some reason, it just has not stopped.”

What has been the most surprising part of being a woman in construction?

“When I first started my plumbing career, I was the first woman for about a year, and it sucked. But as I invited more women to the workplace I was at, we just changed it.”

“The most surprising part of my career was the impact we had on this very rough and gruff man. Between four women, we changed his life, and he’s not the same man after the influence we had on him. We would say, ‘We can do this job, don’t worry about it, you can move on to the next task.” We just kept proving to him that we know what we’re doing and you’ll never have to recheck our work. We worked very hard and diligently because we wanted to prove our worth. I appreciated that I was able to do a lot of really cool stuff by myself, but what shocked me was how easily we all banded together to achieve a common goal.”

Are there any advantages of being a woman in the construction industry?

“Huge advantages.”

“We provide diversity and therefore, a balance. I’ve been in the industry for so long now that I can help those starting out in their careers. I feel like we’ve paved the way. I’ve already taken some beatings for them, so to speak. The industry is used to us already.”

What is the biggest challenge women in construction are up against?

“Your mindset. That’s the only thing that will ever stop you. I had to work to change my perspective. I always thought I had to be one of the guys. But you don’t need to, and that’s not the right mindset to have.”

“I had to find my role and funny enough, it was strength. I’m small, so it was great to see the other males surprised at my abilities. Sure, I’m small but I worked to build the right mindset: I can move that mountain and I will.”

What is the most memorable moment of your career in construction?

“I worked with a 70-year-old man, and I remember being so scared. We were moving a unit that was flying in, and I had never rigged before. This unit was absolutely huge. He asked me why I looked so scared, and all I could think about was how massive this thing was.”

“I said to him, ‘They’re helicoptering it in and we only have half-inch space on each side.’ He calmly replied, ‘Always remember: Stay calm. I’m 70 years old, and I’m still pushing tools. I couldn’t have made it here if I broke my back, so learn to use your brain. You can move a mountain with your finger, as long as you have the right tools and use them correctly.’ We got it in with half inch to spare on either side.”

“I loved spending time with the older guys, that was incredible. More importantly – that day I learned that my mindset was my biggest roadblock to success.”

What’s your top advice to women who are thinking about pursuing a career in construction?

“Try it all out. If you don’t like it, move on. If you’re not passionate about something, move on and try something else. You can try anything you want, but if you choose to stay in it, be passionate about it.”

“I’m not referring to being passionate about the money, but about the work you’re doing. The money will come, because somebody that loves what they do will get hired every time. Their quality of work will show that.”

“Lastly, don’t stop learning. Find yourself a mentor that you can learn from and, keep going.”

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