Women in Construction Week is March 6-12. While the advent of technology has enabled more females to play integral roles in planning, engineering and building milestone projects, the soft skills that women bring to the workplace are a major part of their professional expertise. At Kitchell, we are fortunate to be surrounded by women who serve in a wide range of positions, from field office manager to project managers and directors on sophisticated building projects and multi-phased programs. We asked a handful of these professionals recently to share how their life lessons and experiences shaped their role and contributions at Kitchell. Their inspiring anecdotes of perseverance, strength, fortitude, and commitment have benefited Kitchell in spades. This week, we celebrate all of the women who help us fulfill our purpose Together, Building Value Every Day.
In our often male-dominated field, the women in our midst demonstrate a unique set of skills and perseverance. They are bold, brave, smart women who blaze the trail for others to succeed in the industry.
“During the early years of my career, many of my peers saw me as their little sister in lieu of an equal contributor,” said CEM Director of Engineering and Architecture Services Heather Brown. “My supervisors frequently offered fatherly advice. It would have helped if there was a female in the same industry that could have provided me with advice or guidance.”
Brown has always stood out from the crowd. She selected mechanical engineering as her major (she holds a master in business administration and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering) because she wanted to fly fighter jets, particularly the F-14 Tomcat.
“I was probably the only girl who grew up with Top Gun, who wasn’t in love with either Tom Cruise or Val Kilmer,” said Brown. “I fell in love with the F-14, but my dreams of being a fighter pilot came to an end once I started wearing glasses to correct my nearsightedness.”
KCI Senior Project Manager B.A. Golston said she feels that as a woman, you can defy all stereotypes, go against the grain, and still dominate in a male-dominated industry. She is inspired by the bold women of yesteryears like Amelia Earhart, who she said had an internal barometer larger than any record she ever set.
“She was destined to be more and never stopped believing that she could be,” said Golston.
CEM Senior Project Manager Dolores Montenegro said it’s important to recognize that women in general have made huge strides in both the design and construction industry – both from being behind the scenes and at the forefront of projects.
“But, I think we still have a long way to go,” said Montenegro. “One of my first memories 30 years back, was in a college engineering class where only two or three of the students were women. On the construction side of the equation, you still see very few women. It’s still a male-dominated environment, and I feel as women, we need to find a way to collaborate with one another and have our voices heard in the industry so it becomes something that young girls and women want to pursue as they grow up. If I could offer them advice, I would tell them not to be afraid to step forward into the light.”
Undeniably, the women of Kitchell are passionate about their work. They feel their role is impactful and rewarding, and they’ve made Kitchell a home away from home. While many of them have a competitive nature, they support each other, treat their colleagues with respect, and enjoy creating lasting personal and professional relationships.
“For me, project and construction management is a little bit like the smell of freshly brewed coffee,” said Montenegro. “It’s what wakes me up in the morning and what keeps me motivated. 33-plus years and counting, and I still have the same energy and passion as when I started, perhaps with a little more moxie and bravado. I went from being a quiet voice in the background to a roar.”
Being around passionate people fuels and feeds creativity. It’s evident that the women of Kitchell pack a powerful punch of energy, passion, and determination. Their passion rubs off on other staff, cultivating an inspiring workplace, which promotes growth. They aren’t afraid to question today’s practices so tomorrow’s projects are refined for the better. They continuously stretch the company’s methods past the status quo, bringing forth new strategies and perspectives.
“I really enjoy strategizing and identifying ways to grow and stretch the services provided by the Engineering and Architectural Department,” said Brown. “I’m dedicated to the development of the staff and I find it very rewarding and revitalizing.”
hardison/downey Director of Marketing Lisa Buelna said she is uber-competitive and doesn’t like to lose at anything. She said she’s always given 100 percent in the pursuit of a win, and puts her blood, sweat, and tears into every project.
“If we lose a project to a competitor, I tend to take it personally, probably too personally sometimes,” said Buelna. “But I think it’s so important to be passionate about your work. Clients and peers will gravitate toward that.” But, as a parent to a toddler boy, she also find herself more patient and “softer” in her work environment.
CONFIDENCE & HUMILITY
Entering the workplace with confidence, paired with humility is a common thread among the women of Kitchell, and confidence is a trait that they all advice others to embody when entering the building industry.
Brown has taken skills she’s learned at work and applied them to her home life, pointing out her ability to compromise. Through work, she said she’s learned how to agree and respectfully disagree. Golston said she uses the humility she practices at home in the workplace as well.
“Everyone has something to offer, and we all experience growth at our own speed, so it’s important to always listen,” said Golston.
Everything Montenegro uses in her everyday life is a result of both education and upbringing.
“Treat people with respect – respect their abilities and opinions,” said Montenegro. “I don’t think there is any bigger compliment you can give someone than to hear them out. No one’s opinions should be discounted.”