Women in Construction: Demolishing Gender Barriers in the Construction Industry
It is certainly no secret that the construction industry is one of the most male-dominated career fields, with women making up roughly 9% of the construction workforce. In recent years, however, the industry has seen an uprising in women who dismantle withstanding gender barriers and occupy integral leadership roles in construction.
“It’s not easy,” said Truebeck Project Manager Brynda Olson, “You have to be very good because they’re going to call you out if you’re not.”
Olson found her way to Truebeck Construction in 2014, where she began as a Project Engineer. She advanced to Project Manager in under three years—though she did not always envision she would work for a general contractor.
As a fresh UC Berkeley graduate, Olson joined an architectural firm in downtown San Francisco. It was her collaboration with various general contractors throughout her five years on the job that piqued her interest in the construction industry.
“I liked figuring out how to actually build something, going from 2D to real life—I found that more compelling.”
Though she is on the general contractor side of the business now, her days in architecture are far from forgotten. In fact, she has found that her previous work experience equips her with a unique advantage in the field.
“It gives me a better connection with the architects because they know I’m on their side,” Olson comments, “I understand their intent and they love that I can see their point of view.”
Olson also shared what she finds to be the most rewarding part of her career.
“Being a mentor—I love seeing other engineers younger than me grow into strong leaders.”
Truebeck Project Executive Kelley Wathen spoke to her experience of being underestimated by her trade partners.
“Often-times people walk into the trailer or jobsite office and assume I’m performing a different role,” Wathen explains. “Some may view being underestimated as an obstacle. If anything, being underestimated can be a benefit.”
In 2009, Truebeck welcomed Wathen, a recent Cal Poly graduate, to the team as a Project Engineer. She swiftly rose through the ranks, achieving the status of Project Executive—just shy of her ten-year anniversary with the company—an endeavor which very few people in the industry achieve in that timespan.
Ironically, Wathen revealed that her career path with the company began with a rejection.
In her junior year of college, she was turned down by Truebeck upon applying for an internship position. Unwavering in her determination, she applied again the following summer and was awarded the internship.
“I like to tell this story to show that perseverance and resilience pay off. Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to try again.”
Reflecting on other notable moments in her career, Wathen shared a sentiment regarding her first promotion at Truebeck.
“I had been a Project Engineer for about three and a half years, and decided I was ready for a promotion,” Wathen recalled, “I knew I had to work for it. For my annual review, I prepared this whole sales pitch on why I should be promoted. I had a binder. It had tabs. When I showed up, the entire leadership team was at the lunch, and there were Prius keys on the table—the symbol of making it to a Senior Project Engineer role. Turns out it was a ‘congratulations’ lunch.”
Wathen spoke to what she attributes her success.
“I didn’t try to be the best female Project Engineer or female Project Manager, I just tried be the best engineer or manager I could be.”