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A Road Map to Success for Women in Construction

Mar 16, 2021

I recently took part in a panel discussion – virtually of course – regarding women’s roles in the construction industry and the challenges they face. While we all know that the construction industry as a whole is dominated by men – women account for less than 10 percent of industry jobs – that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of opportunities for women. 

In my 40 years in the industry, I have seen tremendous change and I am heartened to see so many young women professionals choosing construction as a career path. From my start at a summer job to now overseeing STV’s Midwest territory construction management team, I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to grow as a professional and enjoy a long and successful career. 

There are lessons I’ve learned along the way that may provide insights for early-career professional women. While there are many factors that contributed to my success, here are a few key ones that I consider especially important:

  • Cultivate strong communication skills and the ability to work with different personality types
  • Take on new challenges, even if they’re outside your comfort zone
  • Find formal or informal mentors (men and women) who can be instrumental in career growth
  • Join and be active in industry organizations and events

Remember – networking is fun and beneficial to your career! Enjoy getting out and meeting new people at industry events (once it’s safe to do so again). Long before we had social media as a communications tool, it took effort to stay in touch with those in my network. Little did I realize then how important nurturing those relationships would be. Once you have spent a year or two working closely with a client or colleague on a project, you will have built a trust that can lead to future opportunities to work together. I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many great colleagues, clients, and business associates over the years and am grateful for that.

Looking at the bigger picture, the success of women in the industry is not an altruistic act. Companies that hire and promote women perform better. Our panel cited a recent study conducted by McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, that found that companies with a broader gender diversity in their workforce were 25 percent more likely to be more profitable than companies with fewer women. The same is true for ethnic diversity.

I’ve seen the success of gender and ethnic diversity firsthand in my own business development efforts. We have had successful, qualified and diverse teams on several major contracts that just happen to be led by women. It is my belief that it makes good business sense to assemble a team with the best qualifications and experience, while also reflecting the diversity of our clients.

Jan Turner, CCM, LEED® AP, joined STV in 2014 and serves as vice president and is the territory manager for the Midwest. She has more than 40 years of experience in the industry and has overseen major capital projects for the federal government, aviation, healthcare, education, justice facilities, commercial, and residential sectors, among others. She is an active member of the Construction Management Association of America’s Chicago Chapter, National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), the Chicago Building Congress, the Ely Chapter of Lambda Alpha International (Land Economics Society), and the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP). When not at home in Chicago, she enjoys spending time at her family cabin in northern Wisconsin.