Women Who Build – The Present and Future of Women in the AEC Industry
By Ken Lambert
Editor's Note: CSI is pleased to publish this blog from Ken Lambert, current CSI Chapter President in New Hampshire. If you have an idea or opinion you would like to share with your colleagues in the construction industry, please contact CSI Content Strategist Peter Kray at Pkray@csinet.org. He would love to help publish your thoughts.
Recently I participated in the 5th annual “Women Who Build” conference in Amherst, Massachusetts. This year there were 300 attendees, which was roughly 20 percent more than the year prior. Out of the 300 present, about 10 percent were men. One of the conference moderators pointed out an alarming statistic: in today’s construction industry, those percentages are reversed, with about 9 to 10 percent women in the field.
Which is surprising, given the fact that there was significant brainpower and influence at the conference, including women from New England, but also Florida, Washington DC, New York, Colorado, and also a keynote speaker from Sweden. Here are some of my opinions and takeaways from the event:
There are also other encouraging signs of more women entering the field. Here are some of my takeaways from the event….”>>
- Much has been written and stated about the lack of qualified Project Managers and Project Engineers at GC/CM firms, especially with the ongoing retirements of those who are 60 and older. What I saw firsthand at the conference is that there is an emerging trend of more women working in these roles for construction companies.
- Architecture has often been the most gender diverse specialty in comparison to construction or engineering firms. However, more and more women engineers are making their name heard loud and strong. Some of the most impressive titles in the country within engineering are now being held by women, including the new COO of AECOM.
- Communities and conferences, such as Women Who Build and also NAWIC, are growing, and younger women are taking advantage of them and are learning from those more experienced AEC women who attend these events..
- There are some specific aspects that women in the AEC fields have to consider which men generally do not have to worry about. One is that how a woman dresses has an effect on how “legitimate” she is viewed on a jobsite or on a project. In contrast, I’ve rarely considered my clothing or dress a crucial item.
All of the speakers and panelists emphasized that women in AEC today are much better and further along than 15 to 20 years ago, and that is a good thing. This trendline seems to show that more and more college women are studying and considering an AEC major, and as such it may not be long before women account for 20 percent or more of the construction industry. But in a country where 50.1 percent of the population is female, it appears there is still much opportunity for more inclusion and diversity within a historically male-dominated industry.