Archive January 2023

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Brenda Trejo

  There are many paths to a career in construction. Brenda Trejo began her journey as secretary to world-renowned architect Ronald G. Firestone of Firestone Designs. Firestone’s work can be found in Dubai, Romania, Russia, Indonesia and across the US, and his clients included Marlon Brando and Carol Burnett.

“He saw something in me that nobody saw and he offered to teach me and put me in school,” Trejo said. Inspired by Firestone, her goal is to one day be known worldwide and to collaborate with other talented architects and designers.
After working for Firestone Designs as an Architectural Designer for almost a decade, Trejo went on to found her own firm, A & B Design in Toluca Lake, California. Her projects included single and multi-family residences, HOA Communities, light commercial buildings, remodels, and landscape designs.

“I love how I am able to make someone’s vision come to life, and I can drive by homes and proudly say, ‘I designed that!’” Trejo especially likes to design homes starting with an empty lot, like this one at 29757 Mulholland Hwy., Ahoura Hills, CA 91301, a particular favorite of hers.
As a designer, Trejo has seen advances in technology that have revolutionized her work. “We have gone from hand drawings to computer drawings/2D renderings to 3D and 4D printing, to virtual reality. This means we can design and better transform designs into reality and improve client communication!” she said.
In early 2022, Trejo moved from Southern California, where she grew up, to Northern California to join TriCore Panels as a Designer & Estimator. It was through TriCore that Trejo was first introduced to NAWIC, though she had been working in the industry for more than a decade. Misha Homara, owner of TriCore Panels, took Trejo to her first WIC (Women in Construction) Week event. “It was exactly what I was looking for, a place where I could make friends, connect, and grow! After the first event I was eager to join.”
Trejo now serves as a member of the NAWIC Silicon Valley Chapter Board of Directors. “In the short period of time that I've been involved with NAWIC, it has impacted my life significantly. I look forward to every event and I have yet to miss one. I've made many friends that I can tell will be lifelong. NAWIC has given me life again. A reason to love Northern California and to call it home. It has confirmed that this is where I belong, in the design/construction world, the world I love. With NAWIC as a support system I know I will achieve great things!”
Trejo encourages women to give the industry a try. “There’s nothing to fear. Give it a shot! Do a walk-through, or shadow someone for a day. Do some research and you will see there’s a reason why this industry is attracting more and more women.”

If you know of a NAWIC member that deserves to be recognized as a Best Person for the Job, contact us today!


What Does Being a Woman in Construction Mean for GenZ?

The GenZ generation represents the youngest members of the workforce, ranging in age from teens to about 25 years old. Unlike for their mothers, or even grandmothers, being a woman in construction today is much more common. When the oldest members of the GenZ generation were born, there were less than 800,000 women working in construction. Now, there are more than a million. With the increase in the number of women in the field, there has also been more acceptance as negative attitudes have lessened along with an increase in diversity awareness.
Yet most GenZ’ers still don’t see construction as a first choice for a career.
According to Walls & Ceilings magazine, “Despite the advances on today’s construction sites, Gen Z—and their parents—still perceive construction as physically demanding, trivial and even sometimes dirty or dangerous. Many don’t understand how today’s industry has evolved with technology, safety, unparalleled skill, and the opportunity to contribute to something greater than themselves. All traits that appeal to Gen Z.”
So what does construction offer for a young woman of the GenZ generation?
For this generation, financial turmoil was common. Think the Great Recession of 2008 and the current economic climate. Being a woman in construction can offer the lucrative and stable career with growth potential that many GenZ’ers desire. Construction has one of the highest gender pay equity rates of any industry. Many positions offer apprenticeships or on-the-job training programs, allowing workers to earn money quickly without being saddled with debt from college loans. For young women seeking professional careers, certification and degree programs can help them get established on a path to success.  
Technology plays a role in attracting this generation to construction. GenZ’ers are digital natives that grew up with STEM as an educational buzzword. They were exposed at an early age to science, technology, engineering, and math – all desirable skills for the construction industry. They are familiar with the technology that is changing the industry, such as drones, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), GPS, 3D printing, and remote control, having grown up alongside it. An influx of  technology-savvy workers would ease the current workforce shortage and build on the potential for the industry.
Today, the majority of women in construction work in positions in construction management, accounting, marketing, sales, and administration. Careers in these fields, where there are more opportunities for remote work, can give GenZ’ers the flexibility they desire.
"A lot of the younger generation is really into technology," said Scott Ponsler, labor director of Kent, Washington-based mechanical contractor Hermanson Co. "Obviously, on the construction side, we don't have the ability to work from home — we have to be on the jobsite building the buildings. But, we have seen members of our estimating and project management teams take advantage of hybrid schedules, where they're able to do some work from home. So it's an intriguing opportunity, especially for the younger workforce."
How can GenZ learn about being a woman in construction?
Mentorship is one of the best ways for young women to build on their potential for a career in construction. Not only can they gain from the experience and knowledge of another woman in construction, but they can make valuable industry connections, too. Mentorships can be informal arrangements between two people or part of an established program from a school, company or organization such as the Construction Management Association of America, the Associated General Contractors of America, and NAWIC.

Students enrolled in construction-related programs at institutions of higher education, vocational training programs and apprenticeship programs can take advantage of NAWIC’s mentorship opportunities and networking connections with a student membership for a nominal fee.
With more than 5,000 members and more than 115 chapters in the United States (and affiliate organizations worldwide), the National Association of Women in Construction is the leading organization for women builders. NAWIC provides community, mentorship, networking, leadership opportunities, and education for its members. Career resources for women in construction include the latest construction job openings and professional development events.

Advancing Construction Technology Opens New Career Opportunities for Women Builders

According to the National Center for Construction Education and Research, the top 5 construction trends of 2022 were: better PPE for women, increased use of automation and robotics, increased use of 3D printing, widespread digital transformation, and a greater focus on sustainability. New technology is making construction easier, faster, safer, and more cost-effective than ever before. It is also providing new opportunities for women builders.

Construction Dive reported, “there’s a new shortage of skills in construction, but it’s not concentrated in any one trade. Instead, construction tech leaders are looking for people who understand construction’s emerging technology stack, as well as how the built environment works, to better address perennial pain points and help actual tradespeople work better, faster and more efficiently in the field.”
Some of the new job opportunities for women builders include:
Drone pilots
Drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles are changing the industry. Used for mapping and surveying, monitoring and tracking progress, collecting data, and to provide safety and security surveillance, drones can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and help keep construction workers safe. To become a drone pilot, you must obtain a Remote Pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration and pass the FAA 107 Unmanned Aircraft General - Small (UAG) exam.

Autonomous heavy equipment operators
Accuracy, efficiency, and safety are increased when autonomous heavy equipment is used for sitework, excavation, and grading. Operated remotely with data and 3D mapping from GPS and sensors, the equipment can conduct their work in geofenced areas to precise specifications.

According to heavy equipment manufacturer, CAT, technology will help to address the ongoing worldwide shortage of qualified equipment operators. “They’ll act more as Heavy Equipment Systems Managers, directing multiple machines, possibly on more than one jobsite during the course of the day. With multiple video feeds, on-board sensor feedback and tactile controls, construction work will potentially appeal to both the video game generation and older workers who may no longer have the stamina (or desire) for demanding on-site work.”

Construction data analysts
New technology means an increase in available data, from sensors, drones, mobile apps, building information modeling (BiM) and more. Industry professionals, such as construction data analysts, combine construction knowledge with machine learning and data to reduce costs and risk while increasing efficiency and accuracy. Analytics is used to interpret data for optimization of areas such as billing, performance, scheduling, and project management.
New opportunities for women builders
Want to learn more about tech-related construction career opportunities? NAWIC can help. Find job openings in our Career Center and discover educational programs on our Resources page. Another benefit of membership is the opportunity to find and network with members already working in those positions.
With more than 115 chapters in the United States and affiliate organizations worldwide, the National Association of Women in Construction is the leading organization for women builders. NAWIC provides community, mentorship, networking, leadership opportunities, and education for its members. Career resources for women in construction include the latest construction job openings and professional development events.

Rita Brown

  There are many paths to a career in construction. Rita Brown describes her unique path as “hard work, often in the face of bias and ignorance.”

There are many paths to a career in construction. Rita Brown describes her unique path as “hard work, often in the face of bias and ignorance.”
“Education and preparedness multiplied by an unparalleled immigrant work ethic was my foundation,” Brown said. “That lesson of hard work, often in the face of bias and ignorance, showed me that purpose, perseverance, integrity, and relentless dedication is in itself a formidable strength and a true path to success.”
The CEO of BCC+ and EmergeTech, LLC, Brown grew up in the construction industry working summers and after school in her father’s engineering and detailing company. From counting cars for their traffic division, learning how to run prints and draw steel, to answering phones, handling project documents, and providing administrative support, she was exposed early on to the diverse opportunities in construction. She also learned from her father, who worked his way up from being a graduate student to CEO/President, that the industry could provide a solid career.
As a woman in the industry, particularly a woman of color, her greatest challenge “has come from those who are reluctant to embrace innovation or progress: generationally, ethnically, or in terms of thought leadership. Those challenges become an opportunity when you use those moments to better hone your intentions and honor your integrity.”
Whether advocating for a skilled workforce, innovation integration, a more efficient economic energy system, or adoption of JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) initiatives, Brown has had an impact on the industry. 
“What got us here won’t get us there, and the industry is starting to make that tangible shift. It’s a good start,” she said. "What's been incredibly affirming is the majority of colleagues and friends in this industry that have supported and encouraged my career, projects, and accomplishments, large and small, and who are there for the many bumps and redirections that we all face at times.”
One of the initiatives Brown works on is Project: Accelerate! It is an industry exposure program for women that Brown founded with initial local sponsorship support from NAWIC and other industry partners. In the last 10 years, graduates of the program have gone on to careers in construction from entry-level to CEO. In 2017, Brown was invited to discuss the project at a White House policy briefing.
“Contributing to salient discussions on workforce and program development was also pretty darn cool,” she says. "I'm beyond excited by the pivotal opportunities in influencing and changing culture and helping entities grow with solid, modernized and equitable business processes and programs. The reimagination of tasks, incorporating innovative blended positions, adding consideration for reducing the reproductive-based bias, and adding in pregnancy and family care considerations are aspects of a progress-driven industry that will benefit all of us.”
“Be aspirational. Be intentional.”
Brown encourages women to research opportunities and explore their interests in the field, as well as to seek mentorship opportunities.
“The building industry is expansive, and if that is where you want to be, there’s a place for you at whatever age, gender or training level you are at.”
Since becoming a member of the Lansing, Michigan chapter, Brown has served NAWIC in many roles, including Region Director/National Board Member, Region Membership/Marketing Chair, Chapter Immediate Past President, President, VP, Secretary, Director, National Task Force Lead, and MOSAIC DEI. “NAWIC at its best is a collaborative professional organization. I’ve been able to leverage opportunity, talent and relationships that have tremendous value in my world.”

If you know of a NAWIC member that deserves to be recognized as a Best Person for the Job, contact us today!

Photo credit: Becky Steffens Photography

21st Century Skills: Leadership Training in Construction

Construction leaders need more than technical skills and depth of knowledge to get ahead. 21st century skills, also known as future skills or soft skills, are important qualities in today’s workplace and are often emphasized in leadership training in construction.
What are 21st century skills?
21st century skills are also referred to as the 4 C’s: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. These skills are most often developed organically rather than in a classroom. However, leadership training in construction, including mentorships, webinars, online training, and professional development workshops, can help grow these skills for women in construction.
Other soft skills that are part of 21st century learning include:
  •  Emotional intelligence
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Initiative
  • Adaptability
  • Productivity
  • Teamwork
  • Self-management
  • Executive function
  • Time-management
  • Social skills 

Highlighting experience with these skills on their resumes and in interviews can help women in construction stand out from other applicants. Resume Builder offers these tips and examples. LinkedIn also includes a section to include soft skills in profiles.
Leadership training in construction: NAWIC and 21st century skills
Here are a few ways NAWIC and its chapters provides opportunities for members to build their 21st century skills:
  • Communication: In the construction industry, excellent communication is vital for safety and teamwork. These types of skills include written (correspondence, reports, proposals), verbal (persuading, negotiating, explaining, presenting), and nonverbal (body language, active listening, expression). NAWIC chapters often host professional development webinars or workshops aimed at helping women construction workers develop these skills. NAWIC regional conferences, like the recent Southcentral region’s fall conference, and the Annual Conference also have sessions focused on communication in the construction industry.
  • Emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to manage emotions to improve communication, help resolve conflict, and better deal with stress. Emotional intelligence begins with awareness of one’s own emotions as well as others’ emotions. Many NAWIC chapters offer webinars and presentations to help members build their EQ and NAWIC’s Midwest region features an emotional intelligence self-assessment questionnaire in the leadership tools section of its website.
  • Social skills: Women in construction benefit from the social connection and networking opportunities that are at the core of NAWIC. Recently, Procore launched Lean-In Circles for NAWIC. According to Sasha Reed, Director of Industry Advancement for Procore, “Circles are made up of 8 or more women who meet virtually each month, guided by a designated Circle Leader. Some of these curriculum topics include: connecting over shared experience, communicating with confidence, overcoming the “prove it again” bias, navigating the” assertiveness tightrope” bias, navigating the “only” experience, why it’s important to negotiate as a woman, and coping with burnout.” 
Transforming women into leaders is the mission of NAWIC as the leading organization for women construction workers. With more than 115 chapters in the United States and affiliate organizations worldwide, NAWIC provides community, mentorship, networking, leadership opportunities, and education for its members.