Women in Hardhats are a Growing Trend in the Construction Industry

MADISON, Ala. — Nationally, women make up less than 10 per cent of the construction industry – 9.1 per cent according to the National Association of Women in Construction.
That number has been steadily increasing over the past decade. Hoar Construction, headquartered in Birmingham and contracted to build the new Rocket City Trash Pandas’ baseball stadium in Madison, has long since broken through.
When it comes to women wearing hardhats on a construction site, Hoar Construction says women are beginning to dominate in engineering and project management positions within their company. Hoar’s female workforce is up to 20 per cent, but what kind of challenges do women face on a construction site and how do so many find their way into the business?
Meet Amanda Black, Safety Manager
Amanda Black is a safety manager for Hoar Construction and is with the crew at the baseball stadium. Amanda is 29 years old and her parents have worked for Hoar for over 32 years.
“I grew up on a construction site,” said Black. “As a child, I picked things apart to see how they were built. Even with toys, I wasn’t interested in the thing itself.
Black went to college on a scholarship, but the school didn’t offer academics in engineering or construction. She came back to what she knew. Eleven years later, she is working for Hoar and is back in school for construction management.
“No one should be limited in what they want to be if they have the heart for it,” Black said. “You have to have thick skin to be a woman among so many men, but you need a thick skin in life anyway, right?”
Meet Jessica Yarbrough, Assistant Superintendent
Jessica Yarbrough grew up learning the cabinetry trade from her father who worked as a boat captain three days on and three days off.
“I am an exterior scan superintendent,” said Yarbrough. “I am responsible for the brick, metal panel, glass storefront, and glass curtain wall that makes up the exterior on this project. Every day, I oversee the work of our trade partners, including brick masons, a metal panel guy, our window installer, and ironworkers.
“I work a little bit with the exterior framers and with our air barrier system, and I handle all the scheduling, coordination, and I manage workflow to ensure the project gets built on time.”
“I find the day-to-day challenges – getting the job done on time and on budget – is harder than any challenges I face as a woman in a male-dominated field.”
Meet Donna Strange, Assistant Superintendent
Donna Strange, like Jessica Yarbrough, is an assistant superintendent for Hoar Construction and she coordinates among multiple trade partners, documenting and making notification of field changes in real time on any project.
“I am the boots in the field,” she said. “I communicate with the project superintendent the challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed with schedule and cost impacts. I listen to the concerns of our trade partners, always keeping one eye open for safety; and I have to make on-the-spot executive decisions to keep the project moving – not just the daily progress – but I have to be prepared to make the calls needed to keep the wheels on the bus during the challenging days ahead.”
She said her biggest challenge at being a woman in a predominantly male industry is her 5-foot-2, 110-pound stature. It can be hard to show authority when you are petite, but she gets around it by being knowledgeable.
“I keep my eye on the big picture – giving our client a facility that meets expectations and I don’t let my size hinder my authority and responsibilities,” she said. “I focus on always staying calm, listening, and sharing my experience in a situation, before making decisions that affect others.”
Meet Sarah Horton, Project Engineer
Sarah Horton joined Hoar Construction officially this past year as a project engineer, but she worked for Hoar throughout college and was a co-op student with them in 2014. Sarah has a degree in architectural engineering from the University of Alabama but, from a general contractor’s perspective, she is at the management level of the job cost perspective.
Sarah was exploring scholarship options while enrolled at the University of Alabama studying dentistry when she was approached by the engineering department, who had her test scores in math and science.
“Because I was a female, I was going to receive a nice engineering scholarship to declare general engineering as my major,” she said. “After one engineering foundations class, I was hooked!
“I agree with Amanda that you have to have thick skin…be confident and understand the depth of your experience,” she said. “Now when I sit down at the table, I may be the only woman at that table, but I feel confident enough to give my opinion.
Read more at: https://huntsvillebusinessjournal.com/lead/2019/04/23/women-in-hardhats-are-a-growing-trend-in-the-construction-industry/

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