Women in Construction Week

 

Interviews by: Amber Stricker, Marketing Communications Manager, ABC-VA

 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women working in the construction industry only account for 10% of the entire U.S. workforce. Women in Construction (WIC) Week is a nationally recognized campaign to highlight these women. In honor of WIC Week, ABC Virginia interviewed several of our members to gain a better understanding of the challenges these women have faced along with the significant impacts they have made on our industry. Here are their stories.



ABC-VA Women in Construction Week Marketing Materials:

Zoom Backgrounds
Download our Zoom backgrounds and use them all week long:

WIC Week Background 1
WIC Week Background 2
WIC Week Background 3
WIC Week Background 4


Please note: Zoom may automatically mirror your screen, which will make your virtual background appear flipped. To undo, go to the Settings gear in the top right corner, hit Virtual Background, then uncheck the Mirror my video option on the bottom of the window.


Meet ABC-VA Women in Construction:

 

Jamie Vanek, TST Construction

 

 

Q: Please state your name, title, the company you work for and how long you’ve been there.

“Jamie Vanek, Vice President at TST Construction. I have been at TST for almost 8 years. I started working in construction in 2007”.

Jamie serves as Vice Chair of the ABC-VA Management Education Committee in Hampton Roads. In 2017, she was recognized as “Project Manager for the Year” during ABC-VA’s Excellence in Construction Awards ceremony at The Main in Norfolk, Virginia.

Jamie received her bachelor’s degree from Temple University and her master’s degree from Arcadia University in Pennsylvania. She is a breast cancer survivor, wife of a veteran and mother of two. As part of the TST Joint Venture program she is a mentor to minority contractors educating them to work through the maze of government regulations and requirements so they can become successful on their own. Read Jamie's bio here.

 

 

Q: What does your role entail?

As Vice President of TST Construction, Jamie is responsible for carrying out the company’s mission. Jamie oversees operations for TST as well as four joint venture companies and three additional construction companies. She provides support for the other companies’ processes, staffing, finances and growth.


 

Q: What do you think are some of the advantages of being a woman in the construction industry?

“One of the advantages is actually disguised as a challenge. As women, we need to work harder to establish the same level of credibility as our male counterparts.” Jamie says as a woman working in the construction industry, there may be times when you question your own sense of self-worth. “Am I good enough for this job? What if I don’t belong here? Can I address a problem if the need arises?” are some of the thoughts that ran through Jamie’s head as a young Project Manager. Over time, she has learned that everyone has self-doubt and in the end, we’re all just human.



Q: What types of challenges do you encounter working as a woman in the construction industry?

“It can be intimidating as a woman to walk into a meeting with a group of men sitting at a table.” Those same insecurities you may have experienced as a young professional can also creep up on you as a minority in the construction industry. “We often wait until are invited or given the opportunity to take our seat at the table. What we need to be mindful of is that we’ve earned that seat at the table and our voice matters”.



Q: The construction industry has been historically known for a male dominated and an uneducated workforce. What advice would you give to a young woman entering the industry?

“I’ve worked for multiple construction companies. It’s important to surround yourself with people that support you and your personal goals. I would also tell them it’s important to see the bigger picture and realize all the potential this industry offers. Entry level positions look different for women than they do men.” Careers are available in operations, finances and so much more. “Ask yourself – what can I do to make this clearer? Figure out what your strengths are and invest in yourself”. 
 

       
  Jamie accepting ABC-VA's "Project Manager
of the Year" award during the Excellence in
Construction Awards in Hampton Roads, 2017
while battling stage two breast cancer.


Q:  How were you initially exposed to construction?

15 years ago Jamie was a special education middle school and art teacher. Unsure of her career, she began working with a temp agency which placed her at a construction company. She worked temporarily as a receptionist and eventually began working permanently as an Assistant Project Manager. “It turned out to be a surprising fit”, says Jamie.



Q: What was it like working in the field for the first time?

“Until I got into project management, I really didn’t know what to expect. Early in my career I had to fill in for a Superintendent. Luckily, everyone returned home safely at the end of the day”, she joked.

 

Q: What personal qualities help you succeed?

“Internal motivation and drive; self-guided learning throughout my career. Self-motivation as it relates to construction helped to broaden my horizons”.



Q: What do you love about working in construction?

“I love the team environment in construction. We’re always dependent on subcontractors, vendors, owner representatives and so on. Upon the completion of a project, you have something tangible to show for it. It’s incredibly rewarding”.

 


 

Crystal Gloeckner, Comfort Systems of Virginia, Inc.

 
 

Q: What does your role entail?
 

In my role I have the opportunity to be involved in our projects before they even start until they are complete. On the preconstruction side, I assist with identifying and qualifying the projects or contracts we decide to pursue. I track all related documentation, manage our deadlines and oversee the submission of proposals and bids for our Construction and Service divisions. Once we have been awarded a project, I review all Owner and Customer contract terms for accuracy and compliance. On the Operations side, I oversee the project administration team and assist the PM’s as needed with the management of Subcontractors and Suppliers during the performance and closeout periods of our projects.

 

Q: What do you think are some of the advantages of being a woman in the construction industry?

Up until recently, I think I would have said there were few. However, times are changing, the industry is continuing to evolve and the demand for more skilled workforce is growing. As a result, the perception of women in construction has certainly improved. Now more than ever, women are taking on and really excelling in roles that not too long ago were almost always filled by men. The industry has finally started embracing the advancement of women in construction, opening the door for even more opportunities and positions both in the office and out in the field.

 


Q: What types of challenges do you encounter working as a woman in the construction industry?
 

Construction is a tough field to work in, no matter what your gender. Over the years I’ve dealt with some people who maybe just weren’t used to working with women in certain aspects of construction. Some of those interactions, though likely unintentional, can leave you with a feeling that maybe you aren’t being taken seriously because you are a woman. As I gained more knowledge and experience and became more confident in my position those types of encounters were few and far between for me. Overall, I’ve had a very positive experience as a woman in the construction industry, even though I know that is likely not the case for many others.

 

Photo courtesy of Comfort Systems of Virginia, Inc.

Q:  What advice would you give a woman entering the industry?
 

My advice would be to find mentors… and as many as you can! They can be other women in the industry or experienced colleagues. I think you will find that most people are eager to offer their support, guidance and training in hopes of bringing more women into the construction industry.
 

Q:  How were you initially exposed to construction?

 

Growing up, my family owned and operated their own construction business. From a very early age, I always loved going to work with my dad. By the time I was in high school, I spent the majority of my holiday and summer breaks interning in the office. I really enjoyed being there, assisting with whatever tasks needed to be completed and learning from anyone who was willing to teach me. When it was time for me to officially join the workforce, I already knew this was the industry I wanted to be in long term.

 

Q: What personal qualities help you succeed?


As a woman, and especially a woman in construction, having self-confidence is important. This is something I struggled with initially, but I realized if I wanted to achieve any of the personal or professional goals I had set for myself, I needed to actually believe that I could.


 

Q: What do you love about working in construction?
 

I love knowing that I’m involved in projects that make a difference in our community. Our company performs work for many of the local school systems and it’s rewarding to know that you’re contributing to making those environments better for the students. We’re working on a new care facility in the area that will house and provide medical treatment for over 100 military veterans. It feels good to contribute to something that is going to help so many people.

 


Beverly Thomas, Regional Contracting Services

 

Q: Please state your name, title, the company you work for and how long you’ve been there.

"Beverly Thomas, Owner, Regional Contracting Services. Regional Contracting Services will be celebrating our 20-year anniversary this year".

 

Beverly Thomas is the Owner of Regional Contracting Services. She holds an MBA in Business Management from Washington Adventist University. She is an accomplished businesswoman, a proud wife and mother of a young teenage son who is getting ready to attend college and plans to major in aviation management. When she is not managing the day-to-day operations of her company, Mrs. Thomas is devoted to giving back in her community through church programs and volunteer opportunities. She also cooks dinner nightly for her family.  

 

Q: What does your role entail?

“I am responsible for the company; sales, marketing, outreach, and developing relationships with our customers. My job is easy because our tradesmen are exceptional. They’re really the backbone of the run the company”.
 

Q: What do you think are some of the advantages of being a woman in the construction industry?

It’s not so much an advantage as it is an opportunity to get in front of customers. Initially, firms will deal with you because they have to check a diversity box. They can go anywhere for the same services you offer. We do great work; we provide an excellent level of service. After working with RCS, we want customers to come back because we’re a good construction firm and they can check those boxes.

Throughout my tenure with Regional Contracting Services, our company has partnered with several workforce organizations. My passion is providing employees with an opportunity to thrive. The opportunity ABC of Baltimore offers in their JumpStart program provides young men who were previously headed down the wrong path or didn’t have adequate resources with the skills they need to be successful and allows them to move forward in their careers and earn an honest and lucrative living”.


Q: What types of challenges do you encounter working as a woman in the construction industry?

The construction industry is a predominantly white male industry. As a woman and minority in the construction industry, you’re faced with challenges daily. Many people see race and gender when you walk into the room. Often times it’s very noticeable by their tone of voice, mannerism and body language. You have to work hard to keep your composure. For me, I always say a silent prayer before each meeting. Often, I have to pray during a meeting. It is sad because I grew up in Long Island, New York where there was and still is an abundance of diverse. Our industry should embrace and appreciate diversity and not simply use the term “diversity and inclusion” to be politically correct.
 

Q: The construction industry has been historically known as a male dominated workforce. What advice would you give to a young woman entering the industry?

It’s important to go to school and learn all you can about the industry. Then further your education with professional development courses to improve your communication skills. As a woman, you need to be respected and taken seriously. You don’t want labels assigned to your name. The objective is to have individuals deal with you in a professional manner. It happens when education and skillful communication are part of your DNA. 


Q:  How were you initially exposed to construction?

After working as a Branch Manager for Terminix in New York, I got married in 1998 and moved to Maryland.” Beverly left Terminix and started working in the construction industry in 1999. Regional Contracting Services was founded in July 2001. “I took construction courses at PGCC at night. Then I was part of the first Strategic Partnership Program with Clark Construction. I continued to work with suppliers, vendors, manufacturers and industry leaders to learn the industry. Then, to improve our business operations, I decided to go back to school and attend classes at night to earn by MBA at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland. WAU has a great MBA program that is center around ethical leadership. It is possible to be profitable and ethical”.
 

Q: What personal qualities help you succeed?

Putting God first. Without it, you will get consumed with the stress. You need a spiritual connection. Being honest and having integrity are critical. You must be genuine and honest. If you don’t know something, speak up. And being a good listener. When I understand the need and the concern, then I can work toward a solution or compromise.  

 

Q: What do you love about working in construction?

As a woman, there were times when I wasn’t sure if construction was right for me. But I discovered that the people are the reason I am here. Every year, Regional Contracting Services participates in Career Day with our local elementary schools. It is so exciting and fulfilling to teach young children about construction. Construction affords the opportunity to participate each year in the Ward 8 toy drive. But equally satisfying is giving someone a job that turns into a career. When the person can take care of their family and their responsibilities. For me, that is the most satisfying part of the construction industry.  

 


Lindsey Nicholas, International Roofing Corporation


Q: Please state your name, title, the name of your company and how long you’ve been there.


Lindsey Nicholas, International Roofing Corp., President, 5 years

"My father started International Roofing Corporation in 1989. I started in business development. We are a family run operation with divisions in Tidewater and Richmond. We are developing a division in Northern Virginia now. International Roofing Corp. is a commercial roofing contracting with a specialized focus on green roofing, which is what differentiates them from their competition. International Roofing. Corp. is currently working on a 10-level green roofing project with Hourigan in Charlottesville".

 

Q: What does your role entail?
 

"As the leader of the company, I run/oversee operations to estimating, service division, production and accounting. I manage long term and short-term planning, job-site check-ins, strategizing on bidding".

 

2 - Q: What do you think are some of the advantages of being a woman in the construction industry?

"Women are in tune with other people’s wants and needs. We know how to be sensitive toward other people. We are great mediators, good listeners".


Q: What types of challenges do you encounter working as a woman in the construction industry?

"Most of the people I work with are more than friendly. I’ve had a really positive experience".

 

 

Green roof projects completed by International Roofing Corporation

 

 

Q:  What advice would you give a woman entering the industry?
 

In the construction industry, you can work your way up very quickly. You could be in estimating or sales and even start your own company. The possibilities are endless. Whether you discover a career in construction through college, an apprenticeship program, it’s important to spend time out in the file so you can learn your job.

 

Q:  How were you initially exposed to construction?


When I was growing up, my father was just starting International Roofing Corporation. He really is the definition of the American Dream; I remember him working very long hours. He had a great work ethic. I don’t think he thought our family would end up running the company. My father recently retired. It’s been a really neat experience growing up and learning from him.

 

Q: What personal qualities help you succeed?


You can’t be too head strong but also not a pushover. Be diplomatic. Mediating and trying to figure out solutions. Be genuinely a morally strong person. You have to be the pillar of the moral code for the company as a leader.

 

Cathy Underwood, Branch Builds
 

Cathy resides in Roanoke, Virginia. She has three daughters and one son. Read her bio here.


Q: Please state your name, title, the company you work for and how long you’ve been there.

Cathy Underwood is the President of Branch Builds, Inc. She has been with the company since 2000 and is the first woman to serve as President.


Q: How were you initially exposed to construction?

After receiving her master’s degree in Biological Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech, Cathy quickly realized not many engineering firms were hiring. At that time, she connected with the Chief Estimator at Branch & Associates (currently known as Branch Builds) who suggested she interview with the company as an Estimator. Cathy began working as an Assistant Estimator and quickly fell in love with the construction industry and the team building and collaboration it requires.


Q: What does your role entail?

I'm responsible for setting and communicating our strategic vision and aligning our teams for success, while providing exceptional services to our clients and growing shareholder wealth as an employee owned company.
 

Q: What do you think are some of the advantages of being a woman in the construction industry?

Being a woman naturally brings a different perspective to every conversation. Whether we are pursuing a project or looking at how we might solve a problem I tend to look at things through a different lens, which adds a dimension to our possible solutions. 



Q: What types of challenges do you encounter working as a woman in the construction industry?

When you walk into a room or on a jobsite, people may not perceive you with the same acceptance as they do our male counterparts. Early in my career I always felt like I needed to work harder than my peers to show the same value.  I also believe we have to be more creative in how we approach relationships in our industry, so we don’t create unwanted perceptions. 


Q: The construction industry has been historically known for a male dominated and an uneducated workforce. What advice would you give to a young woman entering the industry?

Don’t be afraid to prove that stigma wrong. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Shatter the expectations. The only way for our industry to change the negative perception is to provide more opportunities and welcome women in construction.


Q: What was it like working in the field for the first time?
 

It was a little intimidating for me because it was unfamiliar territory; I didn’t grow up with a family in construction. I wasn’t sure what to expect and my first thought was “those guys are so experienced on the job-site; they’re all experts in what they do”.  I was very fortunate to be surrounded by field personnel who were very accepting and encouraged me to learn.

 

Q: What personal qualities help you succeed?
“I grew up playing team sports and many of the same qualities and characteristics that help you be successful in athletics apply to construction. I have a high level of expectation of myself and others in the service we provide and the work that we do.   Building strong relationships are critical to superior performance and I believe it is important to have a continual drive to improve and learn more for yourself and others. You can’t expect to just show up on game day and everything just falls into place. It takes what it takes to do things right. Construction is the ultimate team sport.”


Q: What do you love about working in construction?

“I love the people – I’ve had an opportunity to meet a lot of great people who are looking to do great things. I also really love being part of an industry that has the opportunity to really change communities, whether that is building out someone’s vision and changing how a community lives, works and plays, or we might have the opportunity to change a child’s path as they enter a new school or a new space that’s designed around their learning. I’m really passionate about the impact our industry can have on our communities and changing them for the better”.


 


Molly Bransford, Liphart Steel
 

Please state your name, title, the name of your company and how long you’ve been there.

Molly Bransford, Director of Business Development, Liphart Steel, 17 years

Growing up, Molly was an air force brat. Her family moved around a lot. She attended high school in Virginia and went to Texas A&M University. She is the mother of a 13-year-old daughter, a 10-year-old son and an Irish Doodle. They live in Richmond.
 

Q: What does your role entail?
 

As Director of Business Development for Liphart Steel, I am responsible for tracking upcoming projects. We work on jobs in the state of Virginia. I prepare budget estimates based on schematic and design development documents, work on design assist proposals, work with our team of estimators to prepare bids, turn over new work from the sales team to the production team and develop client relationships. Liphart Steel is a small employee owned company.

 

Q: What do you think are some of the advantages of being a woman in the construction industry?

I think women bring a different perspective. Sometimes I’m the only woman in the room and it’s like a light bulb goes off when I share an idea that no one else thought of. Women process things differently. We can diffuse situations. I remember when I was working in the field, sometimes tensions would get high on a job site and people would point fingers about scheduling issues, etc. and I would have to be the voice of reason.



Q: What types of challenges do you encounter working as a woman in the construction industry?
 

I think initially, when I first entered the construction industry there weren’t a lot of women in construction and I felt like I was constantly being tested or having to prove myself. But I found as I developed more knowledge and experience, that feeling began to go away.

As a young woman working in construction, I didn’t have a real female mentor. It used to be that you’d visit a job-site and I’d be the only woman on site. A lot of women who worked in the industry didn’t stay past 4 -5 years. I see that changing. Now, I am seeing more women in construction.

 

Q:  What advice would you give a woman entering the industry?
 

You can’t be afraid to ask questions. You don’t know it all and you’re not supposed to know it all. Be a sponge as much as possible. Every project is different.

 

Q:  How were you initially exposed to construction?

I earned my degree in Construction Management and worked in Project Management for several GCs before starting as a Project Manager at Liphart Steel and then ultimately transitioning into Business Development. I didn’t grow up in construction, but I grew up thinking I wanted to become an architect. I loved the design aspect, but once I started taking classes, I realized I was more interested in the building side rather than the design.

 

Q: What personal qualities help you succeed?


Understanding teamwork. “I played on a lot of co-ed sports teams growing up. It helped me relate to men”. Building relationships. Having a good work ethic and a positive attitude. The construction industry is a tough industry to work in. You have to stay positive to enjoy what you do. It’s hard work but it’s rewarding work.

 

Q: What do you love about working in construction?

“I love the whole process…problem solving, the unique challenges we see with every new project. Every day is different. When you see the finished project and knowing everything that went into it, it’s pretty amazing”.

 



Emily Covey, DPR Construction
 

Please state your name, title, the name of your company and how long you’ve been there.


Emily Covey, Project Manager, DPR Construction, 10 years.


Emily is originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech. She is a wife and mother to two daughters; ages 6 and 2.

 

 

Q: What does your role entail?
 

DPR is a large general contractor. We focus on technical projects that fall into our five core markets: Healthcare, Advanced Technology, Life Sciences, Higher Education, and Commercial. I started working as an Assistant Project Manager in our Special Services Group (SSG) that focuses on interior projects. After running dozens of interior projects across central Virginia, I ran a few larger projects and eventually, oversaw our SSG group as a whole. Currently, I’m working on VCU Health’s Children’s Hospital in downtown Richmond. I lead the project controls group, which involves developing and implementing our internal processes and cost control. I have also been involved with recruiting and training throughout the company.

 

 

Q: What do you think are some of the advantages of being a woman in the construction industry?

Everyone has different skillsets. My experience throughout my career has been that it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman – what matters is that you’re able to prove your competency. If you can do a good job and prove you know what you’re talking about, you will be successful.
 


Q: What types of challenges do you encounter working as a woman in the construction industry?

There are fewer female role models in the construction industry. There have been times in my career that the male mentors I’ve had didn’t always relate to the challenges I was facing. Specifically, as a Mom, there are challenges with balancing the desire to build your career while also being present for your family.

 

Q:  What advice would you give a woman entering the industry?
 

First, take the time to learn, listen, and absorb as much as possible.  There are so many facets in the construction industry - unique trades, specialized clients, processes, vocabulary.  Absorb as much as you can and never stop learning.  Secondly, build confidence in yourself.  This takes time but jumping into new roles with a positive attitude paired with a willingness to learn will be critical to success.  Finally, I would recommend to openly communicate with your teams.  Be transparent and work with your teams to find solutions.


 

Q:  How were you initially exposed to construction?

 

As a child, I was always good at math and science. Growing up, my summer activities consisted of engineering camps. My first summer internship in college was with a structural engineering company but I wasn’t able to visit jobsites to see what I was working on. The next summer, I accepted an internship with a GC and loved the ability to mix my engineering education with the personable aspects of construction.  

 

Q: What personal qualities help you succeed?


Being communicative has helped me succeed in my career so far. I am very direct and straightforward about my needs and expectations. This has helped my teams to align around project expectations and make sure everyone is on the same page. I am also very determined – if I set my mind on something, I’m going to do it.

I focus on doing what I say I am going to do. This has proved I am reliable and can be counted on by my team members.

 

Q: What do you love about working in construction?

I love that the work we do is tangible and visible. You can drive by a completed project and say, “this is something I built”. It is a great feeling to build facilities that are truly integral to their communities.

I also love the spectrum of people we work with everyday.  We work with trade partners, men and women in the field from all different walks of life, and then I have meetings with the owners or bank lenders, c-suite executives – it covers the gamut.


 

Gina Wiles, EDC
 

Q: Please state your name, title, name of your company.

Gina Wiles, Talent Hunter, EDC.

Gina Wiles is a native of Richmond, Virginia and graduated from VCU with a Bachelor’s in Electronic Media. She began her career in commercial construction in January 2019 with general contractors, EDC. She is married and has two sons and one dog (who is the best behaved of the bunch!)

 

Q: What does your role entail?

My role is a hybrid position between recruitment and business development. Both require a strong level of focus, critical thinking, and patience.
 

Q: What do you think are some of the advantages of being a woman in the construction industry?

Some advantages of being a woman in the construction industry is the ability to be able to inspire other women to transition into the field by breaking down gender barriers, and clearing a path for future women. 
 

Q: What types of challenges do you encounter working as a woman in the construction industry?

Probably the biggest challenge of working as a woman in the construction industry has been my lack of general construction knowledge. I feel like most men have been exposed to some type of hands-on experience whether it was a personal mentorship with their father or a more professional route as a part-time laborer.  Had I been exposed to the industry in a more inclusive way when I was younger or given more information, my career path may have been different and my foundation more solid.  
 

Q:  What advice would you give to a woman entering the industry?

 Learn as much as you can as often as you can and refuse to be put in a metaphorical box.
 

Q:  How were you initially exposed to construction?

My dad worked in construction ever since I could remember. He had the ugliest work truck and the coolest tools. We would drive around and he would point out the places he worked… we still do this!
 

Q: What personal qualities help you succeed?

Passion and determination. These are hard to misinterpret. I think these qualities transcend any subject matter and will always be relevant no matter who you are talking to or what you are talking about.
 

Q: What do you love about working in construction?

Driving around pointing out the projects EDC has built.

 
 
 
Michelle Blaney, ColonialWebb Contractors


Q: Please state your name, title, name of your company.

Michelle Blaney Smith, ColonialWebb Contractors, Plumbing Level 2 Apprentice.

Michelle worked in residential construction for about three years before coming to ColonialWebb. She has worked for ColonialWebb since 2019.

 

Q: What does your role entail?
 

Michelle currently works in manufacturing. She is involved with the prefabrication of sheet metal and welding. Her team is responsible for cutting, brazing and soldering pipes which are used to build various headers, carriers and prefabricated water systems. The material is then transported to job-sites to speed up the building process for workers in the field. I “try to learn all aspects of the business so I can be well versed in my career”.

 

Q: What do you think are some of the advantages of being a woman in the construction industry?

One of the advantages of working as a woman in the construction industry is help is always there if needed. “If I’m too short to reach something or I need help with heavy lifting or moving something, my coworkers are always quick to offer help.” 
 

Another advantage of working in the construction industry, Michelle says, is that she has very helpful supervisors. “I really do have the best bosses - they motivate me and help me think of this more as a career and not as just a job”.

 

Q:  What advice would you give a woman entering the industry?
 

“I’m the only female plumber at ColonialWebb. “There is a woman who works in sheet metal and I admire her. She is as strong as can be”. There are fewer women in the construction industry compared to other industries, which means we have a stronger bond and better mentoring opportunities.


“You don’t have to go to college and collect massive amounts of debt to make a good living. You can learn any trade and become successful doing it. It doesn’t have to be plumbing; it could be any trade. I would also tell them to avoid focusing on your own insecurities. When I first started working in the industry, I didn’t think that I would be as strong as the men or that I wouldn’t have the stamina they have. Try not to focus on the fact that you’re a woman because in reality, it doesn’t matter”.
 

 



Q:  How were you initially exposed to construction?

 

“I came from a long family line of workers. My father worked for Old Dominion Insulation. I saw that he was successful, and I decided to follow his path. The men in my family are all trade workers. I was never one who enjoyed sitting in classrooms or inside all day. When building your career, there are so many choices.  For those like me who don’t want the traditional classroom setting college can bring, there is the construction industry.  You’re still learning, but the style is completely different.”

 

Q: What personal qualities help you succeed?

You have to be resilient. “After feeling like I’ve failed so many times, I was over it. I’m determined to make the very best of my career”. You have to ambition and drive to help you accomplish whichever path you choose.

 

Q: What do you love about working in construction?

I love the fact that the possibilities are really endless. You can literally build your career at your own your pace:  Helper, Apprentice, Foreman, Supervisor, Engineer, Manger.  All options are respectable and rewarding. If you really look at the big picture, the possibilities are endless. You don’t have to stay as a worker your entire life – you can just oversee and become a manger or supervisor. It can go some many different ways if you just stick to it and try to be as well rounded as possible.

 

 

Janice Graziosi, USI

Please state your name, title, the name of your company and how long you’ve been there.

Janice Graziosi, Vice President, Property & Casualty, USI Insurance Services, two years.
 

Q: What does your role entail?
Janice is responsible for bringing in new business with a very strong focus in construction. She is part of the National Construction Practice for USI as well as the Construction Practice Leader for Virginia. Janice has worked in the insurance industry for nearly 30 years and previously worked for AIG.

 

Q: What do you think are some of the advantages of being a woman in the construction industry?

“I think one of the advantages is that we’re completely underestimated. When I’m working with construction firms, they’re surprised at my knowledge of the industry, their pain points and key performance indicators and the understanding of how the construction industry works and specifically, how their business works”.

 

Q: What types of challenges do you encounter working as a woman in the construction industry?
Conversely, being underestimated also poses a challenge. “Not being taken seriously is a challenge. I know my business, I know insurance, I know construction and I know how important insurance is to construction companies; not just to get paid when you have a claim but also to protect your bottom line, your profit, increasing the margins and making the company more competitive in the bidding process. Insurance all plays a part of that and a lot of people don’t realize that”.

 

Q:  What advice would you give a woman entering the industry?
“Keep going. Keep learning about the trade, about your business. If you want to move up in the company, carry yourself professionally and be knowledgeable. If someone tells me I can’t do something, it makes me want to work harder and prove them wrong. Having that attitude will help you in the long run.

 

Q:  How were you initially exposed to construction?

My grandfather was an immigrant and worked as a heavy street and road contractor in the Metro New York / New Jersey area. He helped build the Lincoln tunnel between New York and New Jersey. I’ve also been a part of running a family-owner excavating company and handling the bidding process and the insurance. My father was in insurance his entire career on the claim side and I used to work there during the Summer so insuring construction companies was a natural pathway for me.

 

Q: What personal qualities help you succeed?

“Determination and assertiveness. For both women working in construction companies and on the outskirts, you need to be assertive. Learning; never stop the learning process. I’m a research nerd. I love learning about new prospects, researching new companies, the issues they’re facing in the industry and coming up with out of the box solutions to help them with increasing profit margins and insurance”.


Q: What do you love about working in construction?

“The construction industry is evolving and ever changing. What was normal in the construction industry 10 years ago is not now. There are always new challenges and trying to find new ways to build on those challenges and grow the business”.