How does a woman land in the construction industry?
From March 6 to 11, Miller Valentine joins contractors across the country in celebrating Women in Construction (WIC) Week. The annual event is sponsored by the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and recognizes women around the world involved in all aspects of the construction industry.
At Miller Valentine, we are proud to support diversity in our ranks. Our chief executive officer, Elizabeth Mangan, is a woman, and we have several female vice presidents. One of them is VP of Business Development–Cincinnati, Adrienne Ruebusch.
Adrienne grew up in the construction industry. Her dad was a superintendent. At 16, she was doing any task he could think of as a sort of job trailer clerk—cleaning the trailer, doing daily timesheets and inventory—on a build site at the University of Toledo.
She was the youngest on the site by about a decade and the only female worker. To cope with this difference, her mantra became “Hold your head high.” She kept her chin up on site—figuratively and literally. Then she walked right into a pit. “I learned that you can be competent, but on the construction site, you’ve got to watch where you’re going—or you’ll fall in a hole,” she said.
Adrienne climbed out of that hole and never stopped climbing, eventually making her way into the highest levels of leadership. But the path wasn’t always easy. She was told girls didn’t work construction; nevertheless, she decided to pursue a degree in civil engineering. “I’ve always been obsessed with doing things that people told me I couldn’t. I sort of signed up to get that degree to prove a point that girls do belong in the construction industry,” she said.
She and many others have made their mark. However, as of 2021, women still make up only 11% of the construction workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “It’s always difficult to walk into a room as the only female. That never gets easier,” Adrienne said.
Adrienne said many of the women she knows in construction, like her, grew up with family in the industry. The career opportunities—such as fair pay, open positions, career-shaping, and clear outcomes—are numerous.
According to NAWIC, the pay gap for women in construction is smaller than it is in other industries. Women in construction make 96 cents for every dollar a man in construction makes, compared to 84 cents on the dollar in other industries, according to the Pew Research Center.
Plus, a labor shortage means the construction industry needs workers. As the current workforce retires, leadership openings and opportunities to try new roles increase.
Positions exist for people of all personalities and interests—as long as they’re learners, said Adrienne. People who never want to be at a desk, never want to wear a hard hat, or enjoy a mix of both can find fulfillment and success in construction, she said. There are roles for technicians, engineers, superintendents, investment analysts, estimators, architects and designers, project managers, and more.
“All those roles are equally important to the success of each project, and they have completely different work environments. There’s a place for everyone in and around the industry,” Adrienne said.
In her career, Adrienne has previously worked as a project manager, an owner managing contractors, and an architectural studio manager. Trying on different roles around the industry prepared her to hit her “career bull’s eye” at Miller Valentine in leadership and business development.
“I love the energy at Miller Valentine. We are a growth company. We are destined to grow. If you are willing to put in the work, there is a place here for you to go as far as you want,” Adrienne said. “If you have a voice, you can use it here. People feel empowered to speak and be heard.”
That’s especially true for women. At Miller Valentine, there are women at every level of leadership—from project managers to CEO Elizabeth Mangan. In fact, 33% of the management team are women. Adrienne said women empowering women is key to more representation in the industry and leadership.
“Elizabeth is looking for the maximum potential of all of her people,” Adrienne said. She added this means slotting people where they can fulfill that potential—even moving them into unexpected, new roles when it makes sense.
But, for Adrienne, one of the most satisfying parts of the construction industry is a tangible work product. “In a lot of careers, you’re working on tasks and they can go on for a really long time. You can look back and say, ‘What did I really do?’ In construction, you can look back and say, ‘I built that. I did that. I was on the team that built this structure,’” she said.
To learn more about a career in construction, visit our career page for more information and open positions.