Nationwide, in 2021 women made up 11% of the construction industry’s workforce. To honor and promote women in the construction industry The National Association of Women in Construction is celebrating the 24th Annual Women in Construction Week March 6-12, 2022. In honor of this special week, Rhumbix is proud to feature our very own Susan Smedley, Professional Services Consultant.
As a vital part of the Professional Services team, Susan is a primary point of contact for new Rhumbix clients until they are fully implemented and trained. She onboards and provisions new accounts and works with clients to add their account data, helps create their workflows and exports, trains admin teams and field users on Rhumbix Timekeeping, Production Tracking, and field workflows like Time & Materials and Daily Construction Reports. In addition, she provides Support Team backup and supports Account Executives by collaborating on potential customers’ needs and may join sales demonstration calls. The entire Professional Services team works closely with the Development Team by walking through new features and releases and providing feedback and suggestions.
Here is what Susan has to say about her experience working in the construction industry.
Q. Could you please tell us about your construction industry background?
I have been in the construction industry for ten years. Initially, I did some accounting for some small contractors, and about seven years ago, I started working full-time for a prominent, local GC in the town where I lived in Virginia. I was hired to work at the front desk, answer phones, and be responsible for payroll and AP/AR. However, the job duties were not enough to keep me busy, so I kept asking people if I could do anything to help them. This is how I got my deeper knowledge and appreciation of the construction industry. I helped write proposals and create quote packages. I supported several PMs who weren’t very tech-savvy by inputting their SalesForce data for them. I learned all about contract administration, change orders, COIs. I was able to be an Assistant PM a couple of days a week, traveling to job sites to document project progress. When I moved to Tennesee, I took a job as a Project Management Assistant with an East Coast coatings contractor. That company was purchased, and my responsibilities changed several times, finally evolving into the lead PMA for the East Coast Division of a national coatings contractor. I worked remotely and traveled to various jobsite locations on the East Coast to support and train administrative and support staff on various sites.
Q. What advice would you give a woman interested in getting started in the industry?
It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. The construction industry can be very rewarding and will offer you many opportunities. Keep your eyes open for places you can offer to help or improve processes. Be ready to work hard and sometimes long hours. With patience and persistence, you can create your path and a career you enjoy. I’d also suggest you identify the people in your company who are passionate about their jobs and develop relationships with them. They will be eager to share their knowledge. Construction people are some of the best people you will ever meet.
Q. What are the biggest challenges of being a woman in the construction industry? How did you overcome those challenges?
Honestly, the boys’ club is alive and real in the Construction Industry. Also, often a woman will have to prove herself over and over again on every new project. I worked with a fabulous female project manager. She was very good at her job and always ran successful projects but had the constant challenge of proving herself because she was a female. This woman was constantly battling the men’s assumption that she didn’t know what she was talking about because she was a woman. After a few weeks of working with her, their attitude towards her would change.
I overcame the challenge by accepting the situation and not letting it keep me from working for more. I often told the men, we all have our skillset, and when we put them together, we achieve greater success.” You can’t create this Excel spreadsheet, but I can’t weld those beams–we can get it done together.” I felt like that approach didn’t threaten what they knew but positioned us to work cooperatively, and it worked. We can’t always change our environment, but we can adjust our response.
Q. How can other people and companies support women in the industry?
Encourage females to pursue a career in construction. Acknowledge and celebrate the women who are already there. I’ve been on jobsites that hold luncheons for Women in Construction week. It’s an excellent opportunity for women on a jobsite to connect and find a support system. I think it would also be helpful to include men in the events surrounding Women in Construction to shed light on women’s struggles. I’m sure a lot of men are completely unaware of the challenge.
Q. What have you learned from being a woman in the industry?
I’ve learned to be a little thicker-skinned. When you work in a predominantly male environment, you adapt to the different social networks. I also really developed my teamwork skills. I wanted the men to know I was there to do a job, just like they were, and we could help each other get it done together.
Q. How has the industry changed since you started?
I’ve seen more women entering the industry. Historically, most women were in support and administrative positions. It’s been exciting to see the number increase in project management and engineering roles. I’ve also seen more acceptance of the authority of these positions.
Q. What do you enjoy most about the industry?
The Construction Industry is an exciting, passionate industry. Everyone takes pride in what they do. It is exciting to be a part of a group working towards a common goal. In the construction industry, you get to see your progress tangibly–a pile of dirt turned into a high-rise building, a rusted structure revitalized and functional again. What started as a field is now a school filled with children. I worked on a Nuclear Site where we built one of the US’s newest nuclear facilities. I worked on a Nuclear Navy Base where some days when I drove through the gates, portions of the base would be blocked off because classified exercises were being conducted. I was also part of building a ten-story building with a room labeled as “TBD” on the plans because it was a classified computer operations center. These opportunities were exciting for me, and I felt very gratified that my little piece of the puzzle was part of something important to many people. And I also LOVE the people. I met so many great people while working in construction. I still keep in touch with many of them several years later.
Learn more about Women in Construction Week
Women in Construction Week (WIC Week) was formalized by the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and presents an opportunity to highlight the contributions of women in the construction industry. WIC Week also provides an opportunity for NAWIC members throughout the country to raise awareness of the many career paths and opportunities available for women in the industry. To learn more about NAWIC and WIC Week, visit www.nawic.org.