The history of the National Association of Women in Construction

11/11/2020

The history of the National Association of Women in Construction
The National Association of Women in Construction has always been a place where women can find support from their peers. Whether a tradeswoman, an architect, or a project manager, NAWIC was created as a community for working construction women with aspirations of success within the construction industry. In 1953, a group of 16 women set out to make the idea of this community a reality, and since this time the construction industry has been forever changed. Today and every day, NAWIC works to honor the great history of our association and the impact that our founders have had on women across the industry. NAWIC is and always will be a place for all women who want to make a difference within their careers, for their industry, and, most of all, for construction women. 

Here, we’ll detail the rich history of the National Association of Women in Construction with hopes of inspiring the next generation of NAWIC members to lead the industry.

Creating a place for construction women
Almost 70 years ago, a woman named Doris Efird was proudly working within the construction industry when she realized something was missing – support. And though she may have felt alone in some aspects of her career, Doris wasn’t the only one looking for more from her peers. She and a group of fifteen other construction women, all based in Fort Worth, Texas, who had worked on various projects with each other over the years, met face to face and bonded over this missing link within their professional endeavors. Quickly understanding this was an issue that plagued construction women throughout the industry, the group made their networking permanent that year, and thus the group “Women in Construction” was created.

The 16 women, Alice Ashley, Ida Mae Bagby, Carolyn Balcomb, Sue Bowling, Margaret Bubar, Margaret Cleveland, Era Dunn, Doris Efird, Ronda Farrell, Hazel Floyd, Jimmie Blazier, Nina Ruth Jenkins, Ethel McKinney, Irene Moates, Mildred Tarter and Edna Mae Tucker, are credited as the founders of what is now known as NAWIC.

“Women in Construction” worked to give back to the local community within their first year of existence, holding fundraisers benefitting the Foundation for Visually Handicapped Children and other groups. News of the group spread rapidly throughout the Fort Worth area. The founders had a great desire to expand their presence and include more women in the group as well. In order to do this, however, the original charter, “Women in Construction of Fort Worth,” had to be amended to incorporate new chapters across the country. In May of 1955, the group officially became The National Association of Women in Construction, and the outreach to construction women all over the nation began.

Initiatives, programs, and events for construction women started by NAWIC
NAWIC is recognized as the leading association for construction women in the nation. Giving a voice to women in a predominately male field is, of course, a high priority of the group, but NAWIC also grew to serve several other objectives early on. These objectives, still in effect today, include:

  • To unite for the mutual benefit of the women who are actively engaged in the various phases of the construction industry.
  • To promote cooperation, fellowship and a better understanding among members of the Association.
  • To promote education and contribute to the betterment of the construction industry.
  • To encourage women to pursue and establish careers in the construction industry.

Knowing the impact this new support system for construction women had within the industry, NAWIC went on to create many programs, events, and publications that served to educate and inspire peers. One of the most noteworthy events founded by NAWIC is what is referred to as WIC Week, officially slated as Women in Construction Week. This event, occurring annually in early March, provides the opportunity for construction women across the country to spread awareness of opportunities within the industry and to highlight the role women have in construction today. The celebratory week has become so popular that it’s recognized throughout the industry as a staple event, with many construction women even participating regardless of NAWIC membership.

How NAWIC has grown and inspired construction women over the years
NAWIC has expanded since its inception to over 115 chapters nationally. The interest for recognition of construction women has also gone international, with affiliated programs in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, and South Africa. This worldwide support only shows how powerful one group of construction women with a dream can be, and why it’s important to recruit more women to the industry.

In addition to the growth of the association, NAWIC has been able to provide scholarship, sponsorship, networking, and educational opportunities to members. These programs exist to strengthen women’s business or technical skills, offer leadership experience, and create a support system with the ability to bring equality within the industry. NAWIC’s opportunities also include outreach to young women and children to inspire future construction workers at a young age. Since the founding of the NAWIC Founders’ Scholarship Foundation (NFSF), an impressive four million dollars in scholarships have been awarded to students looking to pursue a career in construction.

How construction women can become a member of NAWIC
The National Association of Women in Construction offers membership for all construction women. As an association that strives for inclusiveness and equality, any woman in construction-related business or industry is eligible to join NAWIC. Membership information can be found on our website, with the option of filling out an application online or downloading one to send in. There are also several types of membership available for interested construction women. Our board of directors, staff and members are always available to provide more information on the opportunities within our association and to help with the application process.

If you are interested in becoming a member of NAWIC and being part of a supportive group of construction women, please reach out to us through our social media pages, our website or by utilizing our “find a NAWIC chapter near you” tool. With a history of outstanding women behind us, we can’t wait to see what the future holds – for you, for NAWIC, and for construction women all over the world.

“We were women with electricity in our veins, cement dust on our shoes, sawdust on our minds … busy, busy, busy, filthy things. ” – Alice Ashley, founding member of NAWIC