Women in the Workplace: A Unique Perspective
According to a five-year research project conducted jointly by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org, representation of women in the workplace, specifically in leadership roles, is growing across the spectrum, albeit more quickly in some areas as compared to others. In just the last five years, women have seen a 5% growth at the management level and 24% growth at the C-suite level. And while those numbers don’t quite encapsulate the entire picture of the expansion of women’s roles, they are representative of a larger, growing movement. We spoke with some of Gray’s leading women about the increasing role of women in business and the design-build industry.
How do you feel the professional world has advanced over the course of your career?
Tanya Barkell, Project Engineer, Gray – I think construction has made huge leaps for women in the bigger companies and trades, but the smaller general contractors still don’t have many women working in the field for them.
Laura Moore, Willett Engineering, A Gray Company – There are more female structural engineers working now than when I began my career, and our presence is not seen as a novelty.
Meredith Perry, Spec Engineering, A Gray Company – While I’ve not been in the workforce very long, it is very motivating when I read about the number of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies being at an all-time high this year. I work hard to balance my family and career, because I want my daughter to see that it is possible. I hope that by time she is my age, she will work in a society that supports women growing their families and prioritizes maternity (and paternity) leaves and other family-friendly work policies.
How do you think women are leading the charge on improving diversity in the workplace?
Cassady Adams, Gray Solutions, A Gray Company – More women being hired into roles traditionally filled by men, such as project manager or engineer, is helping improve diversity in the industry. I think our customers are becoming more diverse as well. Having multiple perspectives on both sides only helps to strengthen the relationships we have with our customers.
Anna Zhang, Project Manager, Gray – I think women are inherently different from men; not better, not worse. As such, we bring different viewpoints from our experiences to the table. When faced with challenges, having a diversity of voices can bring innovative solutions.
Alex Barmann, Spencer Bristol Engineering, A Gray Company – Having more women in leadership roles is a positive change. We have seen the difference in treatment, pay, and recognition. We are supportive of one another. We are seeing qualities in other up-and-coming women and investing in them. For me personally, when I read an article about or see a wildly successful woman in charge, it motivates me. It gives me that reassuring knowledge that I can do that too and makes me want to strive harder for greatness.
If you could provide advice to a young female interested in a career in engineering, design, or construction, what would it be?
Amy Jessie, Application Support Specialist, Gray – Don’t let anyone cause you to question your worth. It can be uniquely challenging to be in a male-dominated field but let that give you power and energize you to excel. Find like-minded allies and nourish those relationships. I felt so seen when a female project manager joined our business unit when I was an administrative assistant; I felt that my voice was strengthened and I had somebody who truly understood the challenges we faced.
TB: Women can get any job done that men can, they just have to go about it a different way, normally; a lot of the time it is a more efficient way too. Women tend to be more organized and methodical, in my experience, and that benefits most areas in construction.
Who have been influential women in your life?
Maria Turner, Training & Team Member Experiences Specialist, Gray – My grandmother, E.M. Turner. She was the great- granddaughter of a runaway slave, and she taught me the importance of family, how to be a woman, how to be a good mother, and just how to be a good person.
Cheryl Dixon, Architectural Technician, Gray – The most influential women in my life are my late maternal great grandmother and my mom. My great grandmother was a farmer and midwife, safely delivering countless babies in rural Mississippi during the early 1900’s, while simultaneously maintaining hundreds of acres of farmland together with her husband, in addition to raising their nine children including my amazing mother (her granddaughter) and rearing a host of other relatives. My mom is a living embodiment of her grandmothers’ resourcefulness, gracefully raising my six siblings and me.
AZ: My mother had a huge influence on how I face adversity, personally and professionally. I learned to always face a difficult situation and people with grace and respect, while maintaining my values.
LM: When I entered the field, I had female contemporaries, but no role models. However, my mother has always been influential to me. While I was in high school, she went back to college and earned her bachelor of science, and she followed that with a master’s degree while I was an undergraduate student. She more recently received her doctorate. My mother also is not afraid to take risks and has taught English to Chinese students, volunteered in Haiti, and even had a short stint in the Peace Corps – all in the last twenty-five years. Seeing this has always made me unselfconscious about taking on new challenges and not questioning if it was appropriate for my gender.
AB: My mother is certainly at the top of that list. I’ve watched her work her way up the ladder in a male-dominated field. I’ve always admired the way she embraced self-confidence. She believes in herself, advocates for herself and others. She also pays it forward every chance she gets with younger female coworkers.
Diversity in the workplace provides immense value, no matter what the industry. And while significant progress has been made since the United States adopted the 19th Amendment in 1920, there is still room for continued growth in equality. At Gray, we are fortunate to have many talented, hard-working women, and we would not be who we are today without each and every one of them.
For insight into life at Gray and opportunities to join the team, please visit https://www.gray.com/careers/.