An Interview with the Women of Summit Design + Build

Women in Construction Week is a great way to highlight women as a viable component of the industry and to emphasize the growing role of women in construction. In honor of this week, we sat down with some of the women of Summit Design + Build, Alekhya Pujari- Project Engineer I, Amber Autumn- Business Development, Carrie Wagner- Project Engineer II and Deanna Pegoraro– Vice President, to ask them firsthand about their experiences as women in construction.

Despite only compromising 10.3 percent of the construction work force, women continue to build their career paths within the industry. We asked the women of Summit, “Why is it important to create equal opportunities for women in construction?”

Deanna

Deanna: “I think it’s important to create equal opportunities for women in construction because it’s a relationship-based industry and women bring a wide variety of skills and strengths to the table. Today you see more and more young women pursuing degrees in engineering and construction management. As a leader in my company, I hope to foster a culture that is attractive for women and make sure that we identify and remove any roadblocks that they may face.”

Amber: “The AEC market is missing out when there isn’t inclusion. The best teams I have been on are the ones that have diversity. Diversity brings more creative problem solving and strengthens teamwork.”

Alekhya: “Good project management isn’t gender specific, if we can see beyond the gender of any opportunity/job seeker we can build stronger organizations.”

Carrie: “I think it is important to create equal opportunities in construction to create another example in a largely male dominated industry that women can be a part of it and really succeed at it.”

Carrie

Amber

Alekhya

Although only a small percentage of the construction industry is made up of women, the number is on the raise. As efforts continue to diversify the industry, we asked the women, “What opportunities do you see opening up for women in the AEC industry?”

Deanna: “The AEC industry as a whole has done a much better job of encouraging and embracing women who have identified construction as their passion and chosen to make a career of it but I feel like there is still a lot to be done to ensure that we are attracting, recruiting and retaining talented women in ALL roles and at ALL levels in our industry.”

Amber: “From the general contractor perspective, I see the project Superintendent position opening up more for women in the commercial space. As a 14-year veteran superintendent, it was a fun and dynamic profession. Building hotels around the country, industrial buildings, and then tenant interiors towards the end of my career, there were always problems to solve. As a superintendent, you are never bored or unchallenged. Plus, planning your outfits for the week is refreshingly easy! Just grab jeans, construction boots, a collared shirt, and you are all set. The superintendent’s wardrobe added simplicity to my life.”

There is no doubt that being a women in a male dominated industry comes along with its own set of obstacles. The women of Summit have each overcome their own set of obstacles and have taken different paths to get to their current positions. As we had them reflect back on their careers, we asked “What are you most proud of in your career?”

Deanna: “I have always tried to keep the big picture in mind. To listen to people, to learn as much as I can, to take advice and be informed so that I can make decisions confidently. Although I may have had to work a little harder to gain trust and respect that was given more freely to men in my industry, I am very proud that I never gave up. This industry is constantly changing and evolving. Every day I learn something new. The more you are open to learning and understanding about the business, the more career growth you will have.”

Carrie: “Thus far, I am the most proud of the work I did at the Golden State Foods project in the West Loop. I am proud that I led that job majorly on my own, with a very important client. It makes it worthwhile to see a project go from an empty space to a finished office.”

As we wrapped up our discussion, we asked the ladies to share any advice they would give women who want to pursue a career in the construction industry-

Deanna: “Being a woman in construction is not for the faint of heart. You really need to have ambition, resilience, determination and confidence to succeed. There were many times, especially earlier on in my career, when I was the only woman at the table or the only woman at a construction job site. It is important in those situations to be confident but I had to work hard to build up that confidence.”

Amber: “It’s easy to be overwhelmed when working on substantial projects. Managing stress better would have been more helpful. The knowledge I did appreciate when I started my career was good leadership and management skills. I led with the belief that you can manage your way through any tough task or situation by being an organized project manager. Create your plan and then work your plan tenaciously. It’s essential to embody your position fully; know and feel confident you can trust your skills and instincts.”

Alekhya: “Trust that you are well prepared with what is necessary and your skills will help you overcome any challenges along the way. Just because this is not a women dominated field doesn’t mean a women can’t excel here.”

Carrie: “I wish I knew how much communication skills I would need. I think I do communicate well but there are so many different types of people that you communicate with and also that communication has to be very well documented in this industry. It is another level of detail that I was not aware of.”

To be a women in construction is something to be proud of and the women of Summit Design + Build are of no exception. It is important to celebrate the contributions that women bring to the construction industry and Women in Construction Week is a great way to do just that. Happy Women in Construction Week to all of the women in construction from Summit Design + Build!

Sources: 

Big Rentz | ENR