Yet despite some recent increase in focus, women still account for less than 10% of the total construction industry workforce, with an even smaller number in professional or managerial positions.
Now more than ever, it is critical to take advantage of a highly skilled and diverse talent pool by attracting more women into our workforce and allowing them to develop the same kind of rewarding and successful careers as men. To do that, we need more female mentors.
In 2013, we set out to raise awareness among all construction professionals—men and women—about the unique challenges women face in the construction industry.
Along with 13 other female construction professionals, we formed an organization
WiOPS membership is open to women and men working in construction, architecture and engineering who are in operations, managerial, estimating, and design career paths.
After listening to women share their experiences, we decided to initially focus on mentorship, because men in our business can find male mentors within their own organization. In contrast, women usually need to look outside.
WiOPS supplies the forum to meet other women who will share their experiences and provide guidance, advice and encouragement to equip each of us with the tools needed to excel in a non-traditional field.
The organization, which operates primarily in Southern California today, has grown from just a handful of members at its launch, to more than 400 women and men.
Favorable response from others throughout the national industry clearly indicates the great need to bring together women in construction operations to learn from one another and to drive our industry forward.
By enabling women professionals to meet each other and share common challenges, they can obtain support and encouragement to forge ahead and advance in their careers.
WiOPS members can also gain valuable insight in how to influence their companies to develop programs to retain and increase women employed in operations roles and mentor them into future leaders.
Mentoring is at the heart of the WiOPS mission. We encourage men and women to be mentors to create and implement change and to develop practical solutions to potential challenges.
Support for WiOPS from McCarthy Building Cos., and from employers of other participating members, has been positive. We just need more of it.
We want WiOPS to give women the strength to ask the right questions so they can excel in the field they have chosen, while still finding work-life balance. The question we all want to know is, “How can I have it all while creating value for my company?”
The right answer may be a non-traditional one, which is why companies may think it is too difficult to develop a solution. We believe the results will be worth meeting the challenge.
There are many resilient women who have found the love of construction. Our hope is to help women who choose a career in this industry to grow and develop so they and their employers can prosper.
Many companies have already joined WiOPS to find solutions that will keep women in the construction workforce and develop them as leaders. We hope others will as well, so we can all reap the rewards of our collective efforts.
For more information about membership or to sign up to attend the next WiOPS meeting, please visit www.womeninoperations.com.
Sarah Carr is vice president of operations for education services at McCarthy Building Cos., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Holly Cindell is project director for McCarthy and can be reached at email@example.com. Based in Newport Beach, Calif., they are co-founders of WiOPS and current co-chairwomen.