During the week of March 6-12, 2022, the industry recognizes and celebrates Women in Construction Week (WIC Week). The first WIC Week was proclaimed in honor of the National Association of Women in Construction
(NAWIC) in September 1960 by Amarillo, Texas, Mayor A.F. Madison. As an international association, NAWIC leadership officially moved its WIC Week celebration to the first full week of March to coincide with the recognition of International Women’s Day, the first Tuesday in March, beginning in 1975.
NAWIC has 118 chapters throughout the United States, including 18 chapters in the Northeast Region – from Bangor to Northern Virginia. NAWIC is the association committed to championing women to impact the direction of the construction industry – providing education, community, and advocacy for women.
WIC Week is celebrated to bring awareness to industry and the women in it. Awareness brings knowledge and knowledge brings the opportunity for change. The statistics of women in the construction industry haven’t significantly changed since the early 1970’s, but what is changing are the roles, the responsibilities, and the effect of women are having within industry organizations and the companies where they work. The upward tick in the statistics is coming. More and more senior leadership on major construction projects are being led by women – in both the vertical and horizontal sectors. Meet some of the women in construction – also NAWIC members – who represent and advocate for construction as a career for women.
Doreen Bartoldus, PE, CCM, ENV SP, DBIA A – Manager of Projects Water Infrastructure, Jacobs Engineering (New York); NAWIC 2021-2022 National President
Bartoldus’ presidential theme is “Envision Equity”. Utilizing NAWIC’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (D, E & I) team, she seeks to provide education and real-world examples to promote this vision. “The outlook for the construction industry as a whole, through new legislation on infrastructure and other programs, will bring more focus on sustainability,” said Bartoldus. “Relevancy in learning new building skills, awareness of new or alternative building materials, industry’s recognition that a diverse workforce is a better workforce, and knowing eyes are on a new way of doing business through diversity, equity and inclusion is why NAWIC is the pathway.” Further, she suggests that women in construction approach their jobs with a new perspective and new expectation. “Think with the near future in mind… Be open to learning new skills at every aspect and phase of the job. Embrace the new technologies and seize the opportunities before you.”
Romina Byrd, SHRM-CP – Human Resources Director, Miller & Long Co, Inc. (Washington, DC); NAWIC Northeast Region Director
Byrd has been in the industry for over 25 years and loves concrete. Working in HR for most of her career, Byrd’s honed professional skills of collaboration, conflict-resolution and bi-lingual (English and Spanish) communication make her invaluable to the Miller & Long team. D, E & I and workforce development have been long-time committed goals of hers and her employer. Understanding that diverse workforce makes a better workforce, Byrd’s recruitment and retention efforts place strong emphasis on this concept. As the NAWIC Northeast Region Director, Byrd takes the Envision Equity
charge of President Bartoldus seriously. “Let’s “Envision Equity” together and continue to advocate for women in the construction industry. Our work is not done. We all have a voice here. Let’s not be afraid to be leaders or to have those uncomfortable and courageous conversations to grow and evolve. Let's listen with empathy, sincerity and authenticity.”
Kathi Dobson, Registered Nurse – Safety Director, Alberici Constructors (Detroit, Michigan)
Dobson has been a member of NAWIC’s Detroit chapter for over 20 years. As a safety professional, Dobson will be the first to say that safety measures put in place in the construction industry changed the industry. “With safety came security. With safety came efficiency. With safety came both recruitment and retention. With safety came growth. Women could be for this industry as safety was and is, but only if cultural and educational changes happen.”
An advocate for D E & I, Dobson offers a distinction between equality and equity. “Everyone gets a pair of gloves. That’s equality. But if the gloves are all XL, only a small percentage of workers will receive gloves that fit. That’s inequity. In order to be fully equitable, the tool crib must be stocked with gloves in every size for every task.” The same is true for sanitary conditions on the job site and other forms of PPE. Dobson’s insights on safety conditions in construction highlight substantial reasons why women aren’t thinking construction as a career. She is a believer that safety improvements continue to be at the forefront of change for the industry.
Jessica French Goyette – Vice President of Operations, W. L. French Excavating Corp (North Billerica, Massachusetts)
French Goyette grew up in and around the family of business, starting her career with the company over 20 years ago. Much of what drives her is the knowledge of what is needed in the industry, women among them. “Women not only make up half of the population, but also are quite capable of succeeding in our industry.”
French Goyette is responsible for internal operations for the business. She keeps the company on the forefront of change, whether it be working with her teams to implement technology initiatives or nurturing a more inclusive culture with greater equity for all employees. “There’s a lot more to be done to diversify our workforce and much of it is in the way of awareness,” she said. “We need to get the word out to our future workforce generations. We need to be in our middle and high schools educating the students – and parents and teachers – on our industry and the many career opportunities it provides. It is an exciting industry that yields many rewards and building a successful career is something we need to share, especially with those who do not have direct access to our world.”
French Goyette, along with her brother Bill, lead a staff of 285-plus professionals. She is a NAWIC member for Boston’s chapter and credits her membership in showing her the incredible diversity within the ranks of women in construction now but agrees that we need more.
Sara Page – Project Manager, Methuen Construction (Plaistow, New Hampshire)
Page is the first female Project Manager in Methuen Construction’s 60-year history. Her story began early on with a self-awareness on how she actually learned – it was by doing things with her hands. In high school, she took on the construction trades and after a five-year break, earned her Associates Degree in Construction Management. Her wheelhouse is wastewater management. A relatively new member to NAWIC’s Granite State New Hampshire chapter, Page is inspired by President Bartoldus’ directive to “approach her job with a new perspective and new expectation”. Page shares, “I hope someday gender, race, or sexual orientation will be erased from our unconscious bias for qualification. Until that day, however, I welcome the possibility of having another woman seeing herself in me.”
Lindsey Draleau – Massachusetts Area Manager, Northeast Paving, a subsidiary of Eurovia (Northfield, Massachusetts); Immediate Past President, NAWIC Greater Worcester, Massachusetts Chapter
Draleau’s introduction to construction was, like many women in the industry, through her father who owned a finish carpentry business. “I watched my father decide his future daily. He not only grew with the times, but had the power to scale back work when family matters were at hand.”
Although, Draleau didn’t take up her father’s mantel as a finished carpenter, she recognized that construction was a good career and she pursued it through both formal education and practical experience. “I got a feel for heavy equipment,” she said.
The projects she manages – whether an airport taxiway, a high-speed traffic lane on the highway, or an exposed bridge deck – are examples of how diverse her work environment is every day. When asked what she enjoys the most about her construction career, this mother of two young boys replied, “I enjoy the ever-changing environment and knowing that I am making my community a better place to live.”