Women in construction: Learning how to roll with the punches

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.

Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, to earn a paycheck isn’t the ideal profession for everyone. This was the exact realization Tina Chanady had after completing her undergrad and a dual master’s program in architecture and land development. Four years later, she’s now a senior construction coordinator for H&W Development.

Thanks to H&W, her first work experience provided her the opportunity to learn all parts of the construction process. “They gave me an opportunity to get my feet wet in everything. I was never relegated to one set position,” she explains. “I was able to evolve, and get a taste for what I like doing. It’s been a great experience.”

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

“I fell into it a little bit. My degree was in land development, which was more focused on land acquisition, creating budgets for projects, and things of that nature. I also didn’t envision myself sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day.”

“When I started working for H&W, they needed someone to help with the construction side. Since I had a background in architecture and land development, construction brought the two other disciplines together in a great way. I began learning a lot and filling in the gaps of what my education didn’t cover. All three of these areas complemented each other really well.”

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

“How rarely I encounter other females, specifically on the construction side of things. When it comes to consultant work, females are well-represented, especially from the design field. Construction-wise, however, I’ve encountered maybe under five females in the last four years – that was a little bit eye-opening.”

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

“Females are generally more detail-oriented, but we can still see the overall picture. I think a higher importance should be placed on attention to detail. I see this perspective lacking all the time, especially with coordinating the finishes and ensuring the entire suite is coming together. I think this is because the industry is still so male-dominated.”

“Perhaps if we had more females overseeing those types of things, the projects may run smoother. I see a lot of assumptions being made or schedules that don’t make sense, because either the thinking is too narrow or the scope is too broad. At least with the females that I know, we have a perfect balance of mirroring or marrying the more minute aspects of a project with the overall grand scheme of things.”

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

“More or less, you’re constantly underestimated. You see a woman; you automatically make assumptions – that’s just how it goes.”

“Dealing with people is just like any other obstacle. Based on your personality, you have to figure out how you can best utilize them to get the job done. Your goal is to get the project done under budget, within certain time constraints, and to make the end user happy.”

“Whatever advantages or disadvantages you’re faced with, you have to use those to meet your goals in the end. That’s how I see it.”

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

“When I asked one of the concrete finishers to let me smooth out a wall for him. I really appreciated that gesture. I’m from an architecture background and I did a lot of model making. I worked with my hands a lot, so being on a construction site and having that type of material to manipulate and finish was a pretty cool experience for me.”

What’s the top advice you can offer to women who are thinking about pursuing a career in construction?

“When I talk to friends in other career paths, there’s certain things that I perhaps encounter on a regular basis that would not be acceptable, in another field. On a construction site, you have to learn how to roll with the punches.”

“Take everything in stride, evaluate it. If you’re comfortable with being in that environment, use your talents to your advantage and keep learning. As long as you’re in a position where you’re able to learn, balance the bad with the good.”

In order to welcome more females in the industry, we have to keep learning and building experience, so we can pave the way for others that will hopefully come behind you.”

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