By Penny Stine
The construction industry supports a huge number and variety of jobs, many of which may not come immediately to mind. Yes, there are plenty of guys out on job sites swinging hammers or fitting plumbing pipes together. There are also engineers, designers, surveyors, real estate and mortgage brokers and dozens of other professionals that work together to keep the construction industry moving forward.
There are also quite a few women in the industry, and while many of them work in the supporting industries such as real estate and banking, more and more are looking to the types of jobs that were traditionally held by men. Their increased participation in the construction industry is good not just for their own companies, but for consumers and the industry as a whole.
“Networking is key, and women are just so good at it,” said Symone Massey, who is a member of the leadership team for the Professional Women in Building Council, a sub-group within the Housing and Building Association of Western Colorado.
The council has met a few times, and the leadership team has been surprised and encouraged by the number of local women who have attended the meetings.
“We’re natural gatherers,” said Kelly Maves, who, in addition to being part of the leadership team for the women’s group, will also be the president of the HBA next year. Maves was not referring to the ability of women to gather food, supplies and whatever cavewomen collected while the cavemen were out hunting, but rather, the ability shared by many women to gather together to collaborate, network and share information.
“High tides raise all ships,” Maves said. “The better we all do individually, the more it raises the industry as a whole.”
The council hopes to sponsor scholarships for women and girls who are interested in building and construction management, and also hopes to get more involved in internship and apprenticeship programs for young people who want to explore careers in the building industry.
More participation by women, especially in design and project management, is ultimately good news for consumers.
“I feel that our clients are less intimidated by the process when they work one-on-one with me,” said Katie Lewis with Signature Homes. “They appreciate a female perspective when designing and building their home.”
While it may seem sexist, women who design homes often want to see an emphasis on the functionality of the home as well as the aesthetics. They know a home not only has to look beautiful, it also has to work beautifully, which means common-sense amenities like pantry closets that are large enough to hold multiple kitchen appliances, laundry rooms that are near the bedrooms and at least one garage that’s close to a kitchen or pantry so groceries don’t have to be paraded through the entire house.
“As a female, I do ask a lot of questions about how they live day-to-day, and what we can do to improve their layout and design features to best meet those needs,” Lewis said.
The local women who work as general contractors or who are out at building sites interacting with subcontractors get a positive response and respect from the men who make up the majority of workers on a job site.
“We all just want to build something that we’re proud of,” said Amber Alegria with Alegria Homes. “They (the subcontractors) know that I am extremely picky and meticulous; that’s why I hire picky subs. There’s a lot of teamwork out on my job sites, with a team of subcontractors that work well with one another.”
The leadership team for the women in building group invites other women involved in any aspect of the construction industry, from planning a subdivision to helping new homeowners install landscaping, to get involved with the council. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 10 at Granite Imports, 2378 Leland Rd., from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Robin Brown, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, will be the featured speaker. Those who are interested in attending the meeting can call Deb Hogstead with Junction Station, 201-1060, to register.