In honor of Women in Construction week, Constructor magazine recently connected with several women in the industry to get their take on what it means to be in a predominantly male industry, the obstacles they’ve faced in their journey and whether they would choose the same career again. Spoiler alert: They would.
KAYLA WALKER, PROJECT MANAGER
A CAROLINAS AGC MEMBER
Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY?
A: I graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Construction Management, with a concentration in Commercial Construction in 2014. I have been in the construction industry for eight years and have had the opportunity to spend most of that time in the field. My project experience includes larger mixed-use developments, correctional buildings and infrastructure projects.
Q: WHAT MADE YOU CONSIDER A CAREER IN CONSTRUCTION?
A: In high school, Leadership Rutherford provided a personality assessment which gave different careers which complemented each person’s tests results. One of the suggested careers was a construction manager, along with an FBI agent and a military officer. I didn’t really put much thought into the results, until a few months later my parents shared an article about MTSU’s concrete and construction management program. The more I learned about the program, the more I became interested in what it had to offer. It wasn’t until a trip to New York where I passed the Oculus, a major transportation hub, that was being built that really solidified my passion for the industry and the buildings we bring to life.
Q: IF YOU WERE TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, WOULD YOU? WOULD THERE ANYTHING YOU’D DO DIFFERENTLY?
A: If I could do it all over again, I would. I can’t imagine having any other career. Being in construction is one of the most fulfilling jobs. It’s not always easy and has its challenges, but it is one of the few careers that a person can see firsthand the fruits of their labor and see how the work we do positively affects the lives of the owners we work for and the public.
Q: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY OR FOR WOMEN CONSIDERING A CAREER IN THIS FIELD?
A: When it comes to women seeking a career in construction I would say to get out in the field as much as you can, not to be afraid to ask questions, and to make mistakes. No matter how long you are in the industry, there are always new things to learn and challenges to overcome.
Q: IN WHAT’S SEEN AS A MALE-DOMINATED FIELD, HAVE YOU HAD ANY TROUBLE ADVANCING? WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED?
A: I have been very fortunate to work for companies that believed in my potential and continue to mentor me so I may advance. I have always felt if I do my job well, then respect will follow.
Q: WITH THE CURRENT WORKFORCE SHORTAGE, DO YOU SEE MORE WOMEN ENTERING THE FIELD? MORE SPECIFICALLY, DO YOU SEE YOUR FIRM TARGETING WOMEN HIRES? WHAT ARE EFFECTIVE RECRUITMENT EFFORTS WHEN IT COMES TO WOMEN?
A: When I first started, there were little to no women on the jobsite. Today, I am lucky to work with many women across all trades that are out there on-site in leadership positions. Overall, women still make up a small percentage of the construction workforce, but I think that will continue to grow. I feel like ACE mentoring programs, continued high school outreach and other grassroot efforts are important to grow recruitment in the industry.
Q: HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR COMMERCIAL CONTRACTORS TO STAY CONNECTED WITH FELLOW INDUSTRY PEERS THROUGH AGC MEMBERSHIP?
A: What I love most about AGC is how interconnected it makes the construction community feel! I believe it is important to be as active as possible. It has continuously proven to make a positive impact on relationships within the industry and community.
Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
A: When not working, I like to travel, spend time with family, read and occasionally participate in chess tournaments.