Forward focus

25 July 2019

Founded in late 2016, Women in Construction aims to increase the labor pool and advance the industry – but not just for females, for everyone. Lindsey Anderson spoke with two of the originators to discuss the initiative.

From skilled trades to equipment operators, it’s not news to anyone in our industry that the labor shortage is real, and it’s fast approaching. As firms struggle to find the right folk to fill the gaps, organizations have popped up nationwide to assist. Take, for instance, Women in Construction, an enterprise “working to put more boots on the ground to increase our labor pool and advance our industry. Together we can open doors for everyone.”

Danielle Edberg

Yes, the name implies a direction for women, but the organization’s focus is much broader. “Our goal is to drive action, from all genders, to ultimately increase the number of women in construction,” says Danielle Edberg, senior manager of industry advancement with Procore. “We also want to create an inclusive environment for all current and future women in the industry.”

According to a recent Crain’s Chicago Business article, the national construction industry last year was 91 percent male. Let’s do the math. We have a tight labor market demanding more workers. Women and minorities have been frozen out of the industry for decades. How do we improve opportunities for women, and others, to get them onsite, hardhat in hand, and fill these positions? With initiatives like Women in Construction, which is an arm of Procore, a construction management software company based in California.

“At the end of 2016, Lauren Masser (Procore’s senior product marketing manager) and I attended the Women in Design and Construction conference in Dana Point, CA, as Procore had sponsored the event,” Edberg explains. “While we had planned on sitting in our booth and discussing/demo-ing our products, we were instead invited to join the conversation amongst 100 passionate women seated at round tables. The women we met at the tables were passionate about their work, proud to have made it in construction and equally excited to develop and mentor a new generation of women.”

Edberg says after meeting these incredible women, she and Masser had one of those light-bulb moments.

“We left the conference thinking that Procore was uniquely positioned to contribute to the conversation of how to get (and keep) more women in construction,” Edberg says. “We brainstormed for a few months, asked some of our clients if they thought we could make a dent and ultimately decided to launch an initiative dedicated to bringing together individuals and organizations to tackle these challenges. This initiative was initially launched by Lauren and I, Katie Rapp (senior manager of product marketing) and Danielle Sandoval (senior manager of product, and eventually became most of my full-time job.” 

Lauren Masser

“We have over one million users and over 3,000 companies that we work directly with,” Masser says of Procore’s reach. “Our ability to create and leverage relationships may influence female leadership or programs to open companies up to educate on the ROI of diversifying their workforce which can be leveraged to change the dynamic of the industry.”

ALH recently spoke with the women of Women in Construction. Here’s what they had to say.

ALH: Why is it important for there to be women working in construction?

Edberg: The labor shortage is one part of it, but it’s also time for construction to catch up to some of the other industries who have learned the business value of diversity of thought. There are tons of articles on this topic, including a Forbes piece, but in order to stay innovative and competitive, this industry must evolve their workforce.

What do people gain from joining Women in Construction? What are the benefits other than meeting other women/people in the industry?

Since the initiative has only been around a couple years, we’ve really only hit on the tip of the iceberg. Members get on our quarterly email list, invites to special events in their area, and ultimately, the opportunity to partner with us and help shape our focus. Since we’re focused on being inclusive, our website is also a crowd-sourced list of all Women in Construction-related events around the world, so anyone can submit their event to be shared with our audience.

Have you experienced any pushback to Women in Construction? And if so, what has your response been?

It depends. We’ve found that many of the women whose stories we tell would rather us not call attention to the fact that they are female, but instead highlight the work they have done, to provide an example of what’s possible, and a role model of sorts that other women can aspire to be.

It’s important to point out that our initiative is not for women exclusively, it’s really for anyone who supports the advancement of women and the success of the industry. Women are more than half of the workforce, and with the coming labor shortage, they are the biggest (mostly) untapped resource.

How do you attract new members?

We produce a lot of content and attend/sponsor many events. We do things like an article or story on our website, webinars, Empower Series events, and have a large presence at Groundbreak.

What’s your involvement with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC)?

We have a partnership with NAWIC and we support their events on a local level, as well as a national level at their Annual Conference. NAWIC has exceptional member loyalty, and a strong presence, so we value their reach and are always excited to partner with them.

I read an article where you are quoted talking about STEM, the labor shortage and the push needed to promote technology in construction. How can Women in Construction help to change the mindset of educators (and parents and students) that there are amazing careers in construction?

This is one of the opportunities that I’m most excited about. We’re aiming to change the conversation on a bigger level, as people don’t traditionally even think that a career in construction is a STEM career. I believe we have the opportunity to push this link forward by creating content to educate the world on some of the cool technology construction is starting to embrace. Technology like AI, BIM, drones, predictive analytics are completely changing the way we build, and construction is one of the industries that can benefit the most from change.

So, how does Procore play into all of this?

Procore has a department (which I’m part of) called, that acts as a social impact/non-profit division. The Women in Construction initiative is part of, and we also do the following:

  • Continuing Education: By providing access to Procore’s software, certifications, and classroom training, helps bridge the gap between workers’ current skills and what’s expected on the modern jobsite. (We also developed a game called Brick by Brick used to teach construction management basics)
  • Procore U: provides training, tools, and certifications designed to get students up to speed with the latest tech. We believe that better equipping these future construction professionals is the best way to inspire the workforce’s next generation.
  • Non-Profits: provides access to the cutting edge technology, training, and certifications necessary to optimize projects for organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Team Rubicon, and other non-profit builders throughout the world.
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