I have fond memories of a trip to Seattle that occurred over 15 years ago. The highlight was the “Underground Tour,” which focused on Seattle history circa 1889, before and after their downtown fire. That period in Seattle was near lawless to say the least, and the population was imbalanced with dozens of men for every woman. The community was rough and tumble at best, and there was not much in the way of a refined society.
It was a similar experience in Denver during that period. The gold rush was followed by the silver rush, but through it all, the inhabitants were primarily male, and there was a dearth of female influence. Most frontiers were overwhelmingly inhabited by male populations. The results were societies fraught with violence, a lack of compassion, and almost no sophistication.
Fast forward to modern times, and the construction industry of the 1980s was similar to early frontier communities: a demographic that consisted primarily of men. The violence of the past may not have been present, but the influence of the male species created a work environment that tended toward coarseness, a lack of culture, and often featured unhealthy levels of self-interest on personal and corporate levels.
Fortunately, women have made great strides in the industry, at all levels, in roles that now normally include ownership/management, technical positions, and support. I have personally seen our company (Anchor Engineering) greatly benefit from the influence of the women on our team.
The women in our associate principal group draw attention to undercurrents in our culture or morale that the men in the group don’t seem to notice. They place a higher emphasis on managing change within the organization rather than just assuming everybody is going to align. They excel in teaching self-awareness to our management staff.
The women in our technical design group encourage collaboration and see solutions that might not have been considered by their male counterparts—thinking “outside the box.” As they work through projects on challenging deadlines, they do a great job of bringing along the team with a positive attitude. Our administrative team somehow manages to create organization out of chaos, in a fast-paced environment that I find difficult to even track.
There are extraordinary opportunities for women in the construction industry, but even more so, our industry can benefit incredibly by recruiting a more balanced workforce. We need to engage and encourage young women in our sphere of influence to pursue construction educations and careers. Continuing to improve our industry depends on it.