Studio Brunstrum

Chicago Build EXPO

October 24, 2019

What does it mean to be a woman in a male-dominated industry?

I recently attended the Chicago Build 2019 Expo with my real estate friend and colleague, Stephanie Pouladakis. Our goal? To listen to and learn from the Women in Construction Panel; our mutual friend and colleague, Shaylyn Cullen of Cullen Construction Management, was one of the six powerful women experts discussing the issue of gender imbalance and inequality within the built environment. In the interior design industry, 69% of the 87,000 designers in the US are women. However, only 25% of the firms are owned by women. Oddly, interior design has always been (and continues to be) considered a female dominated field. In the construction industry, women comprise less than 10% of the total people in the field and less than 15% of all construction firms are owned by women. Since its earliest days, construction has been thought of as a male dominated field, creating a vast dichotomy between two industries that rely on each other to complete both commercial and residential projects.

While the statistics can be daunting, future generations are beginning to bridge the gap within the field. Women are breaking new ground and the future is female in construction! More and more women are stepping up to join the workforce as construction professionals and to start their own companies. Why? STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education has created more women problem-solvers, encouraging and instructing younger women/students in analytical and critical thinking skills that makes them more competitive and tech-savvy in both engineering and construction.

In fact, can be an advantage to be a woman in construction as you stand out and offer a different perspective than your male colleagues. Your decision-making competence and expertise are different. Your buying habits, purchasing power and life experiences are different, which in the Millennial minded generation different is good if not fabulous. While there’s no denying the lack of presence of women in the field creates an intimidating work environment, women in business are no strangers to the need to prove themselves.

My advice to any woman in a male dominated industry? Continue to be approachable. Ask the questions. Be the one in the room that is remembered just as Ashlynn Dolcini, Lauren Sugerman, Lindsay Gregorio, Valeria Wright, Cynthia Johnson and moderator, Peggy Newquist along with Shaylyn Cullen have done in the construction industry. Dare to be different. Advocate for women in all fields!

Susan Brunstrum
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