January 23, 2017
It’s no secret that construction is a male-dominated industry. In 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 9.9 million workers in the construction field but only 9.3 percent were women.
There is plenty of room for more women to join the industry—at all levels—and it’s encouraging to see women climbing to new heights in important roles. For example, USG Corp., an industry-leading manufacturer of innovative building products and solutions, recently named its first female CEO, Jennifer Scanlon. She is excited to join other female leaders in the building space, like Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects, Diane Hendricks of ABC Supply, and Mary Rhinehart of Johns Manville.
The opportunities for women in construction are endless. Below are the stories of a few women who have succeeded in the industry; they fought stereotypes and broke down barriers to get to where they are today. They are an inspiring demonstration that women are fully capable of excelling in the construction industry, and point to a future of increased diversity in the workforce.
Ceiling Installation, Gibson Lewis, Indianapolis
Debbie Hauanio is a union carpenter who specializes in ceiling installation for Gibson Lewis in Indianapolis, Ind. She credits her success in the industry to working hard and enjoying a challenge.
As a lead ceiling installer with 23 years of experience, Hauanio runs an acoustical ceiling crew of six to eight installers. Her responsibilities run the gamut from organizing the teams and turning in weekly reports, to ensuring materials arrive on schedule and overseeing their installation.
Hauanio likes the varied nature of her job. “I kind of fell into the industry but I liked it. I did a four year apprenticeship and learned that it’s hard work, but can also be a lot of fun,” says Hauanio. “I don’t think I’d like being in an office every day. I like the sense of accomplishment when we finish a job and move on to the next.”
Hauanio is thankful for the opportunities she has had at Gibson Lewis. “I’ve been given many opportunities to prove myself and gained greater responsibility each time I’ve met those expectations.”
Q: What’s the greatest challenge for women in the construction industry?
A: I think many women don’t even have construction on their radar because of the physical demands of the job. They might be surprised if they tried! I had an interest in fixing things in my home. One thing led to another and here I am.
Q: What are the greatest changes you have seen during your years in the industry?
A: From my perspective as an installer, I haven’t seen a lot of changes. I haven’t seen a significant increase in women at the trade level. It takes a specific type of person to do what I do. It’s a lot of hard work.
Q: What advice can you give to women considering careers in this industry?
A: The best advice I have is to keep an open mind. If you’re interested, look into it. Talk to people in the industry. Don’t rule it out on principle. I probably work harder than most just because I’m a woman. The expectation that women can’t do the job as well as a man spurs me on. I often think, “Don’t tell me I can’t because I’m a girl! I’ll show you!”