Women in Construction

The recent feature on women in construction shed valuable light on an area in which the Construction Management Association of America has been active (ENR 10/6 p. 28). As the first woman to be president of CMAA, I attach particular importance to our efforts to attract more women into the profession and I believe we can point to impressive progress.

Linda Phillips of the U.S. General Services Administration has become the first woman to sit on the Board of Governors of CMAA’s Construction Manager Certification Institute. She will help guide one of the industry’s most respected professional credentialing programs.

CMAA now has three regional chapters led by women, in Southern California, Northern California and New York/New Jersey. These are three of the busiest construction markets in America, and areas in which our pool of potential leadership is deep. That these women have emerged in such competitive settings is itself testimony to the changes described in your article.

The Construction Management profession is only about 30 years old and is less familiar to young people than architecture, general contracting or even civil engineering. We’re working in a number of ways to increase visibility. We’ve also appointed a membership co-chair to focus on recruiting small, minority and women-owned firms.

Over the years, women have made great strides in the construction industry and have experienced many positive changes in advancing their careers. More women are advancing into project management positions all the time. I am confident they will remain in our industry as long as it continues to offer challenging, rewarding career opportunities.

Christine Keville
Construction Management Association of America
President & CEO
Keville Enterprises Inc.
Marshfield, Mass

In your editorial, "Crummy Conditions in the Crafts Keep Women Away," you state that except for portions of the union sector, conditions in the trades are bad for everyone, including women (ENR 10/6 p. 64). What’s happening for women in the union sector is worthy of more exploration. As a carpenter for 14 years, I can tell you that the union made being a carpenter possible for me.

Until skills are passed from father to daughter as much as from father to son, structured training programs are key. When I started my apprenticeship, I knew nothing about carpentry. Four years later, I came in second in Boston in a competition of fourth-year apprentices. I got those skills through union training.

I have had health insurance steadily because the union allows me to carry my coverage from job to job. I make a fair wage that has allowed me, as a single woman, to buy a house and save for my future and I have an annuity and pension that will allow me to retire with dignity.

My union also trains stewards on how to handle harassment complaints. I’ve somewhere to go if I have a problem and I know I can’t be fired for speaking up.

Over the last five years, union support for women has increased. The electricians’ union has hosted conferences for women members and the carpenters’ union hosted a conference where women carpenters strategized on increasing the number of women in our union. Of course, improving wages and benefits will make construction more appealing to all workers.. That’s what the union does, while turning out a top-notch product.