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Breaking New Ground

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Tuesday saw a new educational offering at the World of Concrete—the “Women in Construction Panel & Open Forum.” The session delved into hot topics such as the wage gap, managing work/life balance, and how women and men can work together to provide opportunities for the next generation of construction professionals.

On Tuesday, a panel of distinguished women who’ve gained success in the concrete and construction industries led a discussion and open forum at the World of Concrete about women in construction.

Titled “Women in Construction Panel & Open Forum,” the session delved into hot topics such as the wage gap, managing work/life balance and setting your worth and was guided by Kristy Wolfe, Assistant Professor Milwaukee School of Engineering (former US Army Corps of Engineers); Michelle Wilson, Senior Director, Concrete Industry Outreach and Support Research and Technical Services, Portland Cement Association; and Leslie Shiner, Owner/Author/Business Coach, The Shiner Group

WOC360World of Concrete Panelists at the Women in Construction event.

From left to right Michelle Wilson, Leslie Shiner and Kristy Wolfe.

A FOCUS ON DIVERSE VOICES AND SKILLSETS

Wolfe kicked off the forum by setting the stage for an open, collaborative discussion that welcomed a diversity of viewpoints, experience levels, and tenures in the industry. “What we're going to do is share experiences, thoughts and work as a group to figure out how we get more people into this industry and how we get our voices heard which is sometimes hard,” she said.

After a quick audience poll, it became clear that the female audience members represented numerous industry roles including company owners, field workers, sales professionals, project managers, accountants, HR professionals and more.

“There’s just such a wide plethora of different types of careers in this industry,” said attendee Karin Perissinotto, a Sustainability Manager with CalPortland. “This session really provided the opportunity to submerge yourself in the industry and see what others are doing as well as what types of career paths there are for women in the industry. It provided a way to see how others got into the job that they are in.”

Adding to this spirit of diversity were the male audience members who attended to support their colleagues and partners, as well as learn how to create diversity in their own organizations.

“From the male perspective, it was very informative to know the adversities that some of the women may have faced in this industry, and how it’s vastly changing and how it’s becoming better. It was important to learn this perspective,” said David Sanders with Air & Wellness Safety Training Company.

A SEAT AT THE TABLE

During the forum, the panelists shared their unique experiences and candid experiences about being a women in a male-dominated field.

“I love working in this industry but what's funny is that when I first started out people would ask me, ‘oh, so is your husband a contractor? Your dad?’ And I said ‘No, I have an MBA in accounting and finance and I understand the industry,’” shared Shiner.

Wilson underscored that being a woman in construction often entails having to earn your place. “We are leaders, we are strong, we are tough as nails,” she replied to an audience member who asked about the connotation of women being seen as overly assertive.

MAKING AN IMPACT

For many audience members, the “Women in Construction Panel & Open Forum,” resonated beyond the typical scope of an education session. For Renee Gadberry, an instructor with Operating Engineers Training Trust, the session created the “feeling like you're not the only one in the field that feels that way.” Gadberry continued that one of the highlights of the sessions was, “being able to ask questions, because we're often isolated in the field.”

“One of the main takeaways I got was that we need to work together and encourage and compliment women to become more involved in construction in concrete,” summed up Adrian Mobley, Owner and President of Air & Wellness Safety Training Company.

The 2022 World of Concrete is being held at the Las Vegas Convention center through Thursday, January 20th. To learn more visit, WorldofConcrete.com.

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