It's Women in Construction Week! This week is promoted by The National Associate of Women in Construction as a way “to highlight women as a viable component of the construction industry." In celebration of this week we asked some of our women in construction and project management about their careers.
Beth Duyvejonck, Director, Project Management
Why did you choose to work in construction? Once I discovered Construction Engineering at Iowa State, it was a natural fit for my combined interest in architecture and science. From there, a passion for the design-build delivery system brought me to Opus.
What do you like most about your work? Design and construction demand both creativity and technical knowledge; my work is never boring. I also enjoy that the challenge is renewed with each new project.
What is your favorite project? My response to this question is always, "the one I am working on right now." The wide variety of product types and clients keeps my work very interesting.
What is your advice to women considering or beginning a career in construction? Go for it! The construction environment is becoming much more diverse and technology-based. Both accessible and challenging, careers in construction are incredibly rewarding.
What unique strengths do you think women bring to construction? Women can thrive in collaborative environments, and construction projects and project teams are extremely collaborative. Increasing the diversity of our project teams will increase our potential for creativity and ultimately provide for better value to our clients.
Read our profile of Beth to learn more about her career.
Jessica Keeley, Regional Senior Safety Manager
Why did you choose to work in construction? My career in construction started in my early 20s as an apprentice union cement mason. Quite honestly the pay and benefits were what drew me to the construction trades. However, I soon learned that being a woman working in one of the hardest physical trades in a male dominated field was surprisingly rewarding. Working hard, learning the craft and perfecting it helped me to earn the respect of those I worked with. Many of the men who I was once intimidated by as an apprentice have become my role models, mentors and friends. I continue to work in this field because of the people. Without their expertise, determination and pride for what they do, we wouldn't have the buildings we rely on.
What do you like most about your work? Having worked as a tradesperson and now a manager, I have been fortunate to experience many areas in construction. As a safety manager, I am part of many different projects, project teams and processes. I like the variety my position offers as it keeps me on my toes and always learning something new. Additionally, knowing that my involvement has helped strengthen the safety culture at Opus is very gratifying.
What is your favorite project? 365 Nicollet is up there on the favorites list. There were many challenges personally and professionally for me. I started my new role as a safety manager for Opus when the project was only built up to the level three parking ramp of the 30 floor building. Some of the challenges included learning the culture of Opus, developing relationships with the associates and subcontractors I had not worked with before and learning new construction processes. As scary as this all sounds, the team on the project was supportive of me succeeding. Specifically, the superintendent was instrumental in teaching me how things worked and challenged me with questions I didn't always have the answers to but trusted me to deliver the best answer. The project managers reached out for clarification and openly accepted my expertise. This project taught me that I am capable of handling the many facets that are involved as a safety manager, and I am valued as a trusted resource.
What is your advice to women considering or beginning a career in construction? Over the course of 18 years I've been a zero-hour apprentice, started a family, went to college and started a new role with a different organization. I would honestly tell them working in construction has been challenging, but the hard work has led to some pretty amazing rewards. I appreciate the various paths that construction has led me to and the barriers I have overcome. I was the first female cement finisher for the company I started with as an apprentice and remained with them my entire career as a cement mason. I was chosen as apprentice of the year, nominated and elected to serve on Cement Mason's Local 633's Executive Board for two terms, have helped construct and manage safety on some really magnificent buildings, and am looked to as a mentor for those looking to construction as a career. I would suggest to those considering construction as a career to have an open mind and be accepting of change. With hard work the sky is the limit.
What unique strengths do you think women bring to construction? With their expertise in problem solving, women in construction have helped make processes more efficient. Women also bring empathy to the table, which helps in creating an environment that is welcoming to work in. Ultimately, women and men have equal value in the construction industry.
Megan Hunsberger, Project Manager
Why did you choose to work in construction? I was exposed to construction early on because my dad has done both architecture and construction project management in his career. There was a point when I was in high school where I made the realization that this was something I could also have success with, and I never looked back.
What do you like most about your work? I like the collaboration required to deliver a successful project, and I love having a tangible result of my hard work.
What is your favorite project? This is a hard question because I have worked on a lot of really great projects, but if I had to choose, it would be the AMC Theatre Support Center in Leawood, Kan. It was the first large project that I was part of, and it had a lot really cool design elements.
What is your advice to women considering or beginning a career in construction? Do not go in with the mindset that women are or should be an anomaly in construction. If the idea of women in construction is normalized, hopefully more women will be attracted to the construction industry. We have a lot to bring to the table!
What unique strengths do you think women bring to construction? Women tend to have a softer approach to situations. While this may seem like a weakness on the surface, I think it is actually a strength. A soft touch is a welcome change in a typically highly masculine environment.