Women taking top construction roles to fill skill needs is spurring “a major transformation in this industry,” said construction-management educator Barbara Jackson at the National Association of Women in Construction’s annual gathering. “I’m convinced beyond any doubt that, at this moment in this industry, there has never been a more critical need for women to be leading.”

The traditional command-and-control style of leadership still in the industry today has proven ineffective, said Jackson, director of the University of Denver’s Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management. “Today, leaders must influence a wide range of groups, and extensive research shows how women are better suited to this kind of leadership by far,” she noted.

But women need to push harder to wield that influence, said Jackson. They remain on the “sticky floor” of corporate hierarchies because they do not promote themselves and often assume gender is a problem in a business such as construction, said the educator. “We already come from the perspective that there aren’t as many of us out there or [that] we’re going to be looked at differently. That’s coming from ourselves,” she noted.

To battle barriers facing women today, NAWIC seeks to expand outreach to industry women and their employers, said newly installed President Connie Leipard, who is also president and treasurer of a Columbia, Mo.-based drywall-installation firm. “NAWIC wants to begin a dialogue with construction employers and industry leaders to discuss ways we can partner to recruit and retain more women in the industry,” she said, adding that the advocacy group of women business owners and managers aims to offer new leadership programs to help members “for their next career step.” 

According to Leipard, NAWIC’s push to enhance women’s leadership skills in the 4,000-member group and in their own workplaces will boost their numbers “at an executive level where we can set pay rates and sign paychecks. We need more of us in those positions,” she told the event’s nearly 400 attendees.