Women in Construction Week: Building the Next Generation of Female Leaders

At Withum, we are fortunate to have over fifteen talented women on our Construction, Architecture and Engineering Services Team across the U.S. Our team ranges from Staff Accountants, Managers, to Partners and together help AEC based companies navigate complex business challenges, whether tax, accounting, advisory or technology-driven.

In honor of Women in Construction Week, Conor Barnes, Sherry Goode, and Emily Dudek, team members of Withum’s Construction and Architecture & Engineering teams, reflect on their experiences and advice to promote and embrace women in the AEC industry.

Q 1: What makes you proud of working in the AEC industry?

Conor Barnes, Manager: The AEC industry builds our neighborhoods. Especially through the pandemic, we’ve learned the importance of having a place to call home. AEC professionals provide communities with places where people can feel safe and secure. I’m proud to be a small part of that.

Emily Dudek, Supervisor: I am proud to work with my clients as a trusted advisor and proud of the incredible work that they perform. It’s cool to drive on a road that a client designed, or past a project that they are working on and think, how awesome are these clients that I have the privilege of working with. It’s very rewarding to know that my work plays a role in what they do. Just last week I drove past a survey crew and pointed them out to my daughter saying, “They work for an engineering firm – like mommy works with!”.

Sherry Goode, Manager, Advisory Services: I worked in the AEC industry some time ago, but what made me proud was the comradery within the project teams and the company. I felt proud to see our company’s name displayed at a job site, and still to this day when I see a news report in front of a project that my company completed, I can say “we built that!”

Q 2: Women comprise approximately 10% of the AEC workforce. What can be done to promote and embrace more women in the industry?

Conor: Like every other industry, technology and innovation are changing the AEC professions. As customers demand a wider range of services from AEC professionals, the firms that succeed will be the ones that continue to look to expand and diversify their workforce across all areas – including gender.

Emily: I think that it’s important to introduce girls to the industry at a young age. I was fortunate to grow up around the industry and see all that it has to offer. Offering that bit of hands-on experience can be very influential – whether it be visiting a job site, or simply helping to fix something that broke at home. It’s important to highlight the accomplishments of women in the industry. It’s also important to understand some of the challenges that women face that may deter them from the industry – such as wanting to raise a family and not work the standard 9-5 – and offer flexibility. Women have so much to contribute and are capable of wearing many hats, so long as they have the support to do so.

Sherry: When I was working for a general contractor, they were just introducing Maternity Leave, and that was back in 2006! I think construction firms have come a long way in offering more inclusion between their male and female team members, but I am sure there are still gaps, especially in smaller companies. I also think that construction firms should offer recruitment opportunities through some of the STEM programs. There is a lot of push for girls and young women to be part of those programs, so it would be a great place for the AEC industry to embrace women looking to join the field.

Q 3: What advice would you give to young women entering or considering the AEC Industry?

Conor: For anyone considering a career in AEC, I recommend connecting with professional organizations. Professional Women in Construction and other similar groups are a great place to start to connect with industry leaders in a smaller, more intimate setting.

Emily: Go for it. There is a ton of opportunity out there just waiting for you.

Sherry: I would tell them to not give up and to keep pushing to break through the barriers that sometimes come with male-dominated fields. I think there have been a lot of strides made to embrace women in the construction industry in the past 10 years, and I am sure there will be even more glass ceilings broken in the years to come. Stick by what you know and be careful of the glass on the ground that is around you, as you excel in the industry.

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