Women in Construction AZ provides a women-only environment to congregate, relate concerns and network
The blueprint for success in the construction industry is no longer signed with ink and set in stone. It’s going through a few revisions, redrafting from a predominately male world to a more level, coed playing field.
Women are throwing on their hard hats and utilizing their unique strengths, too, to gain opportunity and improve the business aspect of the industry.
However, with their unique strengths come unique problems and concerns, and Nate Sachs, founder of Blueprints for Tomorrow, is recognizing such.
In fact, Sachs is digging into his own wallet and providing an environment and outlet strictly for women owners within the construction world to congregate — Women in Construction AZ.
Women in Construction AZ is an organization that provides free monthly luncheons where women can share ideas, listen to keynote speakers and network. The idea was inspired from a Wall Street Journal article Sachs read that stated a high percentage of construction companies are either being owned by women or run by women. This got Sachs thinking.
“Women are very different,” Sachs says. “They’re very nurturing; they’re caring, and those aren’t actually conducive traits to running a company in the construction industry. Their needs are very different; there really wasn’t a forum that was catering to those needs.”
Women run business differently, according to Sachs, by thinking as a tradesman, a businessman — unlike many of their male counterparts.
“The women come in a different angle,” Sachs says. “They were never on the job site for the most part. They look at it as a business, and they run it as a business. They’re more business oriented.”
Thus, Women in Construction AZ was formed, and each month the event attracts about 200 attendees.
The first Women in Construction AZ luncheon held in October last year featured the senior vice president of National Bank of Arizona, Deborah Bateman, as the keynote speaker. All speakers are women as well.
“There are different organizations in the Valley that are specific to your trade, but this is the only one specific to women,” says Colleen Hammond, co-owner of Creative Environments. “With some of the issues we deal with, we’re provided good information, and it’s very apropos for this time.”
Since the first luncheon, attendance continues to increase, from 63 to more than 200 attendees every month.
While the speakers and their respective topics — ranging from HR issues, social networking, and how to evaluate your business properly, to insurances and exit strategies — are relevant and a hit with the attendees, it’s the networking aspect that has proven to not only help the women find business and gain exposure, but bond with one another as well.
“They talk about what’s happening in their world, and I see a lot of business cards exchanged,” Sachs says. “A lot of people are receiving work from one another. They’re meeting people they didn’t know were in the industry, so it has become a real camaraderie.”
Carla Brandt, CEO and founder of Cobra Stucco, agrees and says Women in Construction AZ provides a forum where women can collaborate on the challenges they face in business and their personal lives.
“Women tend to be very competent with communication and, typically, strive to be correctly understood,” Brandt says. “It doesn’t always feel like a wise thing for women in construction to share their fears and perceived foibles with men because of some of the lingering prejudices that still exist in the industry.”
While Brandt says women are still under-represented in the industry, Hammond says their presence is becoming more widely accepted, with more women playing a primary role. Because it’s such a niche market, meeting other women in construction has proven to be beneficial to improve business.
“It helps to share some of the problems we struggle with as well as some of the successes we and they have had and point each other in the right direction,” Hammond says. “It has also definitely helped to make contacts with certain vendors.”
With the industry beginning to turn around with more available jobs and projects, according to Sachs, women want to help one another and show their support. The luncheons provide such an outlet. Not only that, but more jobs means more opportunities for the construction industry becoming more female friendly, expanding the talent pool from which to draw, according to Brandt.
“As women continue to enter the construction field with good results, attitudes begin to change,” Brandt says, “and more and more women continue to enter the arena, bringing fresh talent, new ideas and, oftentimes, better ways to do things.”