As we wrap up Women in Construction week, we recognize how the construction industry is rapidly advancing as a more diverse workplace for women. At Shiel Sexton, we have women represented in all sectors of the company from Executive to Operations to our Labor Force, and everything in between.  We’ve also established a Women’s Networking Group that meets quarterly inviting all women at Shiel Sexton to come together and celebrate camaraderie and provide opportunities for networking and education.   

A few of the hard-working women of Shiel Sexton have opened up to questions about working in the industry, memorable moments, and advice they would pass down to women interested in pursuing construction.  

Why did you choose the construction industry?

Sara Ornelas, Assistant Project Manager: I have always been fascinated with buildings, structures and houses and how they are designed and made when I was growing up.

Chris Dingess, Cost Control Engineer: The construction industry kind of chose me.  I have always been fascinated with the process of seeing structures built from the ground up and all that goes into making that happen.  When I had the opportunity to be a part of it, I jumped into it.

Sarah Galloway, Project Engineer: I grew up doing mission trips with my church. Starting when I was in middle school, we’d drive down to Kentucky to help repair houses. This is where I discovered my love of construction. When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to take Drafting, Architecture, and Construction classes which led me to Ball State for Construction Management.

Amy Fletcher, Safety Manager: I started out in non-profit, and made a change to the construction industry. At first, I was doing administrative and marketing work, and eventually worked towards project management and safety.

How do you think the construction culture is changing for women?

Sara O: Although it is not as common to run into other females in construction, when you do, there is an unspoken attitude of respect towards one another. It is not an easy industry, even for men, but as the world-wide female empowerment movement gets stronger, you appreciate the other females around you who likely deal with the same things as you – even if you don’t know them!

Chris: Just because construction has been a male-dominated industry doesn’t mean it needs to remain so. The diversity that women bring to the industry with different perspectives on everyday activities and different approaches to problem solving is what helps us perform at our best together as a company.  

Sarah G: After spending a year in the field on a jobsite, I have been able to experience what it’s like being a woman in construction more than when I was in an office or in college. I’ve had the opportunity to develop relationships with not only Shiel personnel, but with our on-site subcontractors. By receiving equal respect as men in similar positions, I can see how women in general are being recognized as a new normal in the construction industry.

Amy: There are a lot more women taking positions that were mostly filled by men. Women are taking on a variety of roles in the construction industry. It’s gotten easier for women to receive the respect they deserve in the office and on the jobsite.

What is your most memorable moment working in construction?

Sara O: The best moments in construction for me, as a female in a management role, is when you get out there and talk to workers who get their hands dirty and see things in a different way. Collaboration and communication are critical keys in construction. Those moments do not happen often for me, but it is a good feeling to reach the same goal and have a hand in that experience.

Chris: It’s hard to pick just one. Winning the Timothy J. Sexton Award is probably at the top of the list but working with great people in a good environment makes every day memorable.   Driving by or touring the buildings we’ve built makes me happy and proud to be a part of it all.

Sarah G: It’s more than just a moment, but this past year has been the most memorable. I am working on my first project (Oasis at 56th Senior Living Facility) and have been lucky enough to see it go from the bidding process through completion. I’m so glad I’ve been able to experience it all the way through. It’s been such a great learning experience.

Amy: Before I worked at Shiel Sexton, I was conducting safety routines at a jobsite. The building’s shoring system failed and the roof fell around three feet. Instead of running out of the building, I ran into it to make sure everyone was okay. I then realized how much I enjoyed being in safety. This was one of the scariest and memorable moments for me in construction.

What advice would you give women thinking about pursuing a career in the construction industry?

Sara O: Be patient, try to learn something from every situation- good or bad, and remember you have a voice too! You are there for a reason, even if it doesn’t seem obvious at first.

Chris: Construction is exciting and always changing.  Every day is different and challenging. You interact with a variety of people – vendors, subcontractors, owners and team members almost daily.  I have met some very interesting people.  Construction offers many different types of career paths, from semi- and skilled craft careers, to jobs in operations.  The opportunities for advancement are virtually unlimited, regardless of where you choose to start.

Sarah G: Although you may face challenges in this male dominated industry, we need more women willing to persevere and create a cultural change.

Amy: Construction allows you to be a part of something from design to completion. You take pride in your work and it is a rewarding experience to see and enjoy the finished product. As long as you are strong and hard-working, you will excel.