Celebrating Women in Construction, working in a historically mal - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Celebrating Women in Construction, working in a historically male-dominated industry


Nearly 900,000 women are celebrating Women in Construction week — a time to highlight and celebrate women who play a vital part of the construction process while improving the diversity within the industry.

So, what is it like to be a woman in this field of work?

"Well, usually what it's like is to be one woman in a room of 30 men at a construction meeting," said Jill Mickelson, Senior Environmental Engineer at Braun Intertec.

According to the Department of Labor, women make up just 9 percent of that workforce. But the number of women on job-sites and managing projects is rising. And, perhaps the traditional view that construction is only for men has shifted.

"It's very refreshing, they look at our ideas with a fresh point of view," said Julie Herrera-Lemler, Vice President of the Rochester National Association of Women in Construction. 

But, they weren't always welcomed. Arguments for why there are so few women on the job are common: They don't want to work in a dangerous, dirty industry, and it's physically demanding.

 Herrera-Lemler, who also works as a project assistant at Braun Intertech said, "in order for you to survive in construction, you have to have some type of backbone like the guys do, and the girls that I've seen that are dishing it out with the shovels and the equipment, they can handle it."

"We'll just say if a guy has an emotional outburst on a project, he's having a bad day, but if I had an emotional outburst on the project somewhere, someone is going to say 'oh you know you're having a hormonal moment,'" said Mickelson.

To combat the lack of representation in construction, NAWIC, a networking group for female construction workers say the obstacles for women in construction begins long before they enter the workforce. The group does outreach, and introduces this career to young girls, while also giving them a female role-model they likely haven't had.

Herrera-Lemler says she never considered construction as a career option while growing up. "It was never, 'do you want to work in a construction office?' It was always, 'do you want to be a teacher?'"

The women say exposure to the career is essential in filling the construction talent pipeline.

"NAWIC, introduces children to things of the construction field, like block kids, where we go and actually work with children and they have a little competition with legos, and foils, there were a lot of females this year, and a female won the competition," said Herrera-Lemler.

The women we spoke with say the doors of the construction world are now open and the women are here to stay.Their contributions, a reminder of breaking stereotypes and shattering the concept of gender roles.

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