Construction offers many opportunities for fulfilling and well-paying careers, but women still comprise a very small portion of the industry. We talked to Yvette Stevens, director of economic inclusion and community affairs at Gilbane Building Company in Rhode Island, about what we can do to make these jobs more appealing to women.
Director of Economic Inclusion and Community Affairs, Gilbane Building Company
How do you bring people together in your role?
In my role, I focus on building up the communities in which we work. That includes supporting our subcontractor community, developing the local workforce, and transferring business knowledge that helps small, diverse businesses to thrive and grow. We do this by reaching out to the local community to understand their needs and capacity, and how we can work together as partners. We meet people where they are and combine resources so we strengthen each other as we build communities.
What advice would you give to someone interested in working in construction?
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty! There are so many ways to get into construction, and you can really move up the ranks when people see you are ready and willing to roll up your sleeves and get the job done. This can literally mean getting in the field and hammering nails or troweling concrete, but it can also mean building relationships with people who are in the industry who can lead you toward exciting opportunities, or highlight your talent for taking on challenges and finding innovative ways to solve them.
When people see that “dirt” on your boots or under your fingernails, they instantly get a sense that you know your stuff and will trust you to be a member of their team.
How do you think construction can attract more female candidates?
We need to spotlight more women who are already in construction. Some women don’t realize that construction is a viable option for them, but if they saw more successful women in construction, they would be more open to the possibilities themselves.
In my 20 years working in this industry, I have met some amazing women who have tackled and accomplished some great things. I know if other women knew what I know, they would be jumping at the chance to join the ranks of highly skilled women that have transformed the construction industry today.
Women, by nature, are problem solvers. So what a great opportunity to put those skills to practice every day by working or supporting a construction project.
What’s a perk about working in the construction industry that most people don’t know about?
Versatility! There are so many aspects of construction that people don’t see but must be done in order to complete a project. I was an intern, a design engineer, a quality control manager, a business development manager, a project manager, and now am a champion and manager for economic inclusion and diversity, and I did all of that while working in the construction industry.
Daily, I work with people who are graphic designers, accountants, lawyers, engineers, and the list goes on. Even if you decide you want a career change, you can try something new and your prior experience will still be relevant.