Seven Ways Women can pave the way in Construction
Here are some secrets I’ve learned in the male-dominated world of construction that might strengthen your career as well.
1. Don’t be afraid to stand out.
Regardless of the industry, women bring qualities to a project that men may not possess.
The question is, How do you get in the door to tell a potential customer about the unique value you deliver? The answer is, you stand out.
My rationale is that when you’re in a room of 150 people at, say, an Asphalt Association meeting, you can either blend in with the sea of navy suits or stand out and get noticed. Getting noticed gets you into conversations that let you make your pitch for why your company is better than the rest.
2. Partner strategically.
In male-dominated fields, partnering is particularly important for women business leaders. As an “outsider,” you’re not invited to the table as often as your male counterparts — particularly when your company is small.
3. Be the boots on the ground to help establish credibility.
Striking the right balance between running your business from an office and getting out there to pound the pavement is critical. When clients and prospects see you in the field, they recognize your hands-on experience and expertise. This credibility, complemented by the knowledge base you bring to every meeting, makes you a force to be reckoned with.
4. Be confident that you will shake things up.
It’s easy to become insecure when you’re the only woman at the table, but you’ve made it this far for a reason. Having women in leadership roles traditionally held by men can shake up a well-established company and industry.
Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight. Disrupting cultural mindsets is a journey. In traditionally male-dominated industries it takes time to gain respect from customers, suppliers and colleagues. Don’t be afraid to question the status quo, present your well-thought-out ideas with confidence, champion the process and stand by your decisions. Over time, your success will speak for itself
5. Keep your eye on the scoreboard.
There are winners and losers in every segment of business. To be in the former group requires making smart business decisions and quantifying your results. We use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure our success, and we diligently monitor safety issues, customer complaints, payroll-to-sales ratios and other metrics.
I often use sports analogies to get my team revved up about results. It’s more fun for them to keep track of the numbers when you characterize them as a game they might win or lose; in fact, that “game” goes much further than the raw numbers. For example, when managers focus as strongly on their “pregame preparation” and “postgame follow-up” as they do on their behaviors “during the game,” they perform at a much higher level.
The bottom line is that if we want to win, we can never lose sight of the reason we’re in business: to make money. My grandmother expressed this well. “I like creating,” said this general contractor who built hundreds of beautiful homes over the course of her career. “Besides,” she added, “it’s very lucrative.”
6. Don’t take things too personally.
As a woman working in a male-dominated field, you will encounter comments and questions that will grate on your nerves. The most important thing is to not allow these comments to change who you are as leaders and colleagues and and to ultimately alter what you are trying to accomplish. “Don’t be overly sensitive to people’s comments.
7. Encourage other women to take the leap.
To move the needle on construction and other male-dominated industries, we need to be proactive champions of and for other women. To do this, consider joining a diversity council — or starting a diversity council. Become a mentor and role model for less experienced entrepreneurs. Seek out opportunities to speak to high-school or university students.