‘I AM A WOMAN IN CONSTRUCTION’: Senior Project Manager Alyson Winters Kavanagh on her Experience in the Construction Industry
By Alexandra Comiskey, Marketing and Communications Coordinator

As a woman who strayed from the path of traditional marketing, I found myself at a construction firm with little knowledge of the industry, and yet, I belong. I think that is a true testament of what this industry is capable of and who it allows into its circle—anyone willing to adapt to change.

The construction industry has experienced ground-breaking milestones throughout history, and with the never-ending need to build, change is a necessary and inevitable occurrence. Women have been capable and willing to work in construction dating back to the earliest structures of the world’s first civilizations. So although it is still a male-dominated industry, more women than ever are pursuing careers in architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), and the industry continues to welcome us with open arms.

As I navigate my own journey in construction, it is comforting to know there are many female industry leaders around me to look up to. I sat down with our female senior project managers, including Alyson Winters Kavanagh, to discuss her multiple decades long experience. These are women that we can all learn from, and use their stories and advice as inspiration to build our own.

Like every good story, we must start at the beginning. Alyson has more or less considered herself a woman in construction since she was a kid. “As a child, I always liked to build things, one of my favorite toys was Legos,” says Alyson, Senior Project Manager. “My mom was an interior decorator and my dad was a Civil Engineer; I always used to draw with my dad’s drafting tools.”

The AEC industry has changed exponentially over the past two decades—technology and innovation have certainly shifted the paradigm, and the influence and prevalence of women in higher-level roles even more so. When asked about how she’s witnessed the construction industry changing over the years, Alyson said, “It’s changed a lot over the last 20+ years.  My first graduating class in Construction Management was 50 men and 4 women.  I think construction management is up to 10% female now and architects are 30-40% female. At one of my first co-ops in college, I was an assistant super and one of the tradesman said I would be better off at home doing the dishes.  I think everyone would think twice before they said that today. Luckily for us, there’s much more support for women in the industry now.”

To finish, I asked her, what is your advice to a young woman who is in high school, college, or even out of college wishing to start a career in the AEC industry? Alyson quickly responded, “Trust your gut, go after what you want and don’t let anyone deter you.  Seek out women in the industry and groups that will support you.  Try everything, even if it’s not the right thing. It will take you in the right direction and help you filter through what you want and don’t want.”

At Wise Construction we are not simply “women in construction”. We are assistant project managers, project managers, senior project managers, accountants, and marketers. It is this month that we celebrate our contributing roles and reflect on women’s presence in a male dominated industry. Collaboration is at the core of what we do day in and day out. If we are all working together as a team, pulling in the same direction, it shouldn’t matter who or what you are. Our industry is thriving through a crucial stage of change, adapting through another milestone, which is gender equality in the workplace. And while there has been significant improvement, there is still room for more.