In the highly male-dominated construction arena, mentorship, camaraderie, and taking advantage of growth opportunities are among the key ingredients needed in boosting the number of women in construction careers.

These ingredients were also the values underscoring second annual Women in Construction Week activities organized by female leaders in the Virginia Tech Facilities Department.

Hosted annually in March as part of the National Association of Women in Construction initiative, Women in Construction Week promotes women as a viable component of the construction industry and offers women in the industry the occasion to unite to bring attention to the cause.

Just 10 percent of positions in the construction industry today — project management, architecture planning, or engineering — are held by women. It is even lower for skilled trades roles in plumbing, electric, masonry, and more, with women holding only 3 percent of positions.

During the 2020 Women in Construction Week, which took place March 2-6, women in Facilities and across the university, along with students, came together for a host of networking and social events, job site tours, and other opportunities for learning and discussion.

Included in this year’s activities were a Stress Management and Healthy Nutrition workshop hosted by Hokie Wellness, a tour of campus capital construction and renovations sites, and a viewing of GoldieBlox Founder and CEO Debbie Sterling’s TEDx Talk on inspiring the next generation of female engineers.

The week’s principal event was a panel discussion led by Elaine Gall, university building official; Joy Manning, director of renovations; and Heidi Myers, executive director of real estate.

The three Facilities leaders spoke to the need to engage more women in construction careers and shared their professional and personal journeys in the male-dominated field. They highlighted the importance of mentorship and providing more opportunities for women in construction to join together to build support systems. They also shared personal tips around achieving work-life balance and took the time to answer questions from female students in the room interested in exploring construction and Facilities careers.

Women in Construction Week is just one of the ways the Facilities Department is furthering its efforts to advance women in construction and trades roles and attract more women to its talent pipeline.

The department also strives to connect women to industry careers through its growing apprenticeship program, which engages men and women already serving in the department in new career paths within the trades.

Facilities also proudly offers its annual Construction Management Internship Program, a six-week initiative that offers Virginia Tech students firsthand exposure to a range of construction functional areas, including site and infrastructure development, code compliance with the University Building Official team, renovation, contracting, finance, and more. The program consists of comprehensive classroom learning, in-field rotations, and mentorship opportunities.

“For young women looking to enter the field or to those interested in exploring a rewarding new career path, the opportunities for women in construction are there, you just have to be open to them. Here in the Virginia Tech Facilities Department, we are looking forward to continuing to advancing Women in Construction Week activities and the strong support network of women in Facilities,” said Manning.

Written by Alexa Briehl and Christy Myers

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