Archive February 2023

All of the articles archived for the month that you have specified are displayed below.

Kathi Dobson

Kath Dobson    Kathi Dobson knows safety. The former occupational nurse has overseen Alberici Constructors’ safety programs, policies, and procedures in the Detroit, Michigan area for nearly 25 years. But don’t mistake her role as Safety Director for simply being an OSHA compliance monitor.

“Safety leaders do much more because our goals and responsibilities are to assure that workers are educated; workers are protected from harm on the job, and they are also provided safe haven from external/personal risk,” Dobson said. “As a safety director I also have to manage a lot of things I never anticipated – things like assuring that a project has adequate safety coverage and dealing with a subordinate who may be struggling personally or professionally. I never dreamt that my position would make me advisor, counselor, technical writer, visionary, adjudicator, supporter, adversary, janitor and more…but I love what I do.”
One of the initiatives Dobson has been a part of is a corporate and industry-wide transition from hard hats to helmets. “We are working to educate the construction community of the benefits of chin-strapped helmets through YouTube, Construction Safety Week and advocating during OSHA Alliance meetings and more,” she said. It has had a big impact on the work done by Alberici as well as their partners, subcontractors, and owner-clients.
Dobson has made an impact on safety in the construction industry through her involvement with other organizations, too. She has served on national committees, including the Z359 fall protection committee and the American National Standards for Construction & Demolition A10 construction & demolition standards committee. Dobson has been appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Health & Safety (NACOSH) by the US Secretary of Labor. She is currently serving as co-chair of the NACOSH Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group. Dobson also works to advance education in the industry to help those who are struggling with mental well-being, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, or contemplating suicide.
Over the years, Dobson has seen many changes in the industry. “When I started with my company, I did not see another woman in the field for 6 or 7 months,” she said. “For me, I was the exception for sanitation/toilet facilities, PPE use, and facing challenges that I did not belong on the project, or I was not knowledgeable enough to understand construction or construction rules and regulations.” She saw it first-hand and has worked tirelessly to support others in similar situations.
“The future generation of workers will not tolerate the same-old, stale-old, male-old way of doing business in our industry,” she added. “Better wages, better health care, better childcare and better maternity care will all keep women from leaving our industry.” Flexible scheduling, actively promoting construction as a career path for the next generation, and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts will help more women join the field, she said.
Dobson found support in NAWIC, which led to her advocacy for women in construction, particularly women in the building trades. “The greatest impact NAWIC has had on me personally was to validate and hone my own leadership abilities. This did not happen in a vacuum – it only happened when I got engaged and involved in regional and national activities and had an opportunity to meet many different women leaders in construction within our organization,” she said.  She has served in many leadership roles for NAWIC as part of the Detroit Chapter (Board of Directors, Secretary, VP, President, Block Kids Chair, Membership Chair, Scholarship Chair, WIC Week, Safety & Health Chair), the North Central Region (Safety & Health Chair, WIC Week Chair) and NAWIC National (Safety & Health Chair, OSHA-NAWIC Alliance Chair.)
“I tell women that construction is a great career choice. It’s made me successful personally and professionally and allowed me to do more than I ever could have imagined.” Her advice for women considering a career in construction is to “remember that things may get rough. There will be detours and roadblocks along the way. Learn from them and be resilient, be true to your own strong, bad-ass self and don’t take any crap.”
If you know of a NAWIC member that deserves to be recognized as a Best Person for the Job, contact us today!

Building Diversity in Construction: Setting Workforce Participation Goals

For many companies and organizations, future growth will depend upon building a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Studies have shown that diversity improves productivity, fosters innovation, and increases employee engagement. While the construction industry offers good paying jobs and steady career paths, it often relies on little more than good intentions to build diversity in their workforces.  
Why diversity in construction is important
A diverse workforce can enhance innovation and problem-solving with a fresh perspective. When Consigli Construction project executive Jody Staruk saw an opportunity to bring diversity in construction to a renovation of the YWCA Central Massachusetts in Worcester, she pledged to align with the YWCA’s mission by having an all-women leadership team on the project. The YWCA serves as a community center, gym, and women’s shelter.  In a Fast Company article, Staruk recalled, “The project manager asked the client what time do the kids nap so we can try to plan around not doing heavy demolition during those times. The women on the team, several of whom are mothers—that was something that they just thought of that I can’t say I’ve seen on other jobs.” According to the article, “The company also helped temporarily relocate the YWCA residents to a nearby college dormitory during construction on the living quarters—an effort that reduced disruption and sped up the timeline.”
Are construction workforce participation goals effective?
There has been a drive to ensure equity workforce goals are met through contract obligations in public construction projects and some private projects as well.  Such equity contracting goals ensure minorities, women, and local workers are represented on construction jobsites. Minority representation is also an important part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed with support from bipartisan Congress representatives.
However beneficial participation goals are in theory, in practice they often come up short. For instance, Massachusetts began tracking the hours women and minorities worked on public construction projects in 2016 and established goals for women of 6.9% of total work hours and 15.3% for minorities. But after two years, an audit uncovered that many state-run construction projects had not hired any women or people of color.
In Canton, Ohio, deputy mayor and director of economic development, Fonda Williams believes the key to compliance includes periodic workforce participation reviews and phased-in incentives. “Cities can put what I call real teeth into the contract, real consequences. When I was economic development director and deputy mayor for the city of Canton, I put incentives on the table, but mandated that I wanted X amount of minority participation and job creation. So, depending on the kind of incentive, it could have been a tax credit over a 10-year period, or tax abatement. But my incentives were always phased in, so that if a project was not meeting the milestones, those incentives could be taken away. They’re not front-end loaded,” he said in a Construction Dive interview.
What else can be done?
Instead of measuring diversity by checking off boxes, some companies are tracking employees by trade, position, or economically distressed zip codes. This data provides a comprehensive look at how diversity translates into labor hours and dollars, allowing for measurable action and continued improvement of DEI goals.
Developing minority employees, or upskilling, is another way to build diversity in construction.. Many companies have established their own employee training programs to meet DEI goals. Collaborative public-private partnership programs also exist on national, state, and local levels to introduce women and minority candidates to the construction industry.  Examples include:
  • The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), a tuition-free, virtual executive education program that helps BIPOC- and woman-owned construction contractors build their businesses.
  • Project: Accelerate!, a collaborative program between the Michigan Workforce Development Institute and The Build Initiative designed to introduce women to construction, engineering, design, and skilled trades. 
  • The Rising Builders Program, a public-private partnership between the City of East Orange and Triangle Equities, developer of The Crossings at Brick Church Station. Training is provided through pre-apprenticeships with the LiUNA Local 3 (Laborers International Union of North America).
Companies can also expand their efforts to build a more inclusive industry by voluntarily establishing partnerships with Minority Owned, Women Owned or Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (MWDBEs) and integrating diverse businesses into project planning.
As the leading organization for women builders, the National Association of Women in Construction  is committed to building diversity in construction. Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Committee has established a strategic plan which focuses on communication, education, and recruitment/retainment to create, support and sustain an inclusive culture. On an individual level, NAWIC provides community, mentorship, networking, leadership opportunities, and education opportunities for the more than 5,100 members in 118 chapters nationwide. NAWIC awards DE&! Corporate and Chapter Awards annually. For more information, visit

Workplace Stressors of Women Construction Workers

Let’s face it. Work is stressful in the construction industry, now more than ever, with a shortage of workers and a high demand for construction work. Women construction workers especially are feeling the stress.

A recent Construction Dive article reported that the industry’s difficulty in recruiting new workers and safety concerns were among the top stressors for construction workers. Other stressors included work-life balance and mental health issues.
Lack of training and the workforce shortage
Finding skilled workers is one of the biggest factors of the workforce shortage according to a report from AGC, the Associated General Contractors of America. According to their survey, 91% of construction firms reported having difficulty filling positions. The most common reason, cited by 77% of respondents, was lack of training or failure to pass a drug screen.  This shortage of skilled workers places an additional burden on existing employees who are stretched thin filling in gaps or working overtime to get the job done.

But construction firms are getting more involved in preparing future workers for careers in construction, the AGC reports. “Fifty-one percent of survey respondents—up from 37 percent in the 2021 survey—report they have engaged with career-building programs such as high school, collegiate, or technical school construction programs.” Increasing the number of skilled women construction workers would ease the shortage while a diverse workforce has been shown to improve productivity with better communication and problem-solving skills.

Need for improved safety on the job
Construction is dangerous work for many in the industry. But for women construction workers, additional workplace stress may be caused by a lack of properly fitting PPE, or personal protective equipment, such as safety glasses, gloves, hard hats, and steel-toed boots.
According to Grainger, an industrial supply and equipment company, gear that doesn’t fit properly presents safety hazards: loose material snagging on machinery, ill-fitting gloves causing the wearer to drop or mishandle materials, footwear causing blisters, and steel toe protection not providing adequate coverage. Improperly sized protective equipment, such as safety vests, fall harnesses, headgear, and eye and ear protection, can increase the risk of injury or harm.

Work-life balance for women construction workers
During the COVID pandemic, many employers outside of the construction industry moved to remote or hybrid work models, which enabled a better work-life balance for many workers. In other industries, this is now the new normal. But working remotely just isn’t an option for many jobs in construction. Long hours and erratic work schedules can wreak havoc on home life, particularly for women who are typically the family caregiver. And it isn’t just women. According to Construction Dive, 16% of construction workers reported that their companies were working them too hard to engage with family and friends outside of work and a third reported that it is difficult to take vacations.
Mental health
Concerns about job security, unrealistic expectations from employers, and outside stressors are major factors in mental health issues for women construction workers. One way employers can reduce workplace stress is by scheduling regular toolbox talks to address mental health issues and job concerns. Training supervisors to identify and respond to workers’ stress is often beneficial, as is helping employees build good communication skills.
How can NAWIC help?
NAWIC helps ease workplace stress for women construction workers by providing community, mentorship, networking, leadership opportunities, and education opportunities for the more than 5,100 members in 118 chapters nationwide. As the leading organization for women builders, the National Association for Women in Construction advocates for industry improvements such as better PPE and mental health support for construction workers, and participates in industry awareness events, including Construction Inclusion Week, Construction Safety Week, and Women in Construction (WIC) Week, which was founded in 1998 by NAWIC.