Construction can be a notoriously tough industry for women. They can face many obstacles including exclusion, gender bias, pay gap, and lack of advancement. Perhaps that is why women currently represent only 10.9% of the construction industry workforce.
The good news is cultural shifts are happening to make construction more appealing to women. Preconstruction is one of the places in the industry many women are finding an alternative field to work in. Although skilled trades need to fill the hiring gap with women (and we encourage more to see it as a viable option!), preconstruction doesn’t require the physical demands that labor does which is attractive to some women. Meet some of our brilliant female STACK customers below and learn how they got into the industry, their must-haves in precon, and their message to the next female generation.
Must have in Kelli’s preconstruction toolbox: I like working in STACK’s reporting function. I have an accounting background, so I like working in excel and uploading those accounting codes into STACK.
Kelli grew up with some construction influences in her family. Her grandfather was a mason and built their family home with her father. She grew up a self-proclaimed daddy’s girl, learning about electrical and plumbing, which has helped her see the bigger picture in construction (and work on her own family home). After getting her bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting, she ended up at a custom foundation company, Weaver Precast. That is where she cites her first female role model in construction, her HR Generalist. “She really got me into construction because her personality made it fun.”
Kelli agrees that women bring unique skills to the construction industry. “Women are highly organized and meticulous. We have a different personality than men which I think is complementary and adds some refinement to our business. We can map things out and set up a structure.”
Since starting at Metropolitan Services Group, Kelli has overseen getting everything developed in STACK, setting up the accounts, doing data entry for residential and commercial sides of the business, and doing takeoffs. “I am learning a lot about every trade while doing takeoffs, I really like it. Metropolitan was missing pieces in other takeoff software, so they invested in STACK. It’s more accurate.”
After training another employee to use STACK, he is now completing a takeoff in two hours on an entire house that would originally take days or weeks (depending on the size of a project). “Yesterday, he did three homes in one day.”
Kelli’s words of wisdom to the younger female generation? “Don’t be afraid of getting into the construction industry and doing it. At my last job I would be in the shop and on the floor, watching them pour walls. Don’t be intimidated by it. There is room to grow like I’m growing. There’s a lot to construction, it’s not the same thing every day. Commercial, residential, and the customization end. I am seeing a trend of more women in admin, but you still need to know the basics of construction in those roles. And it’s all learnable as you go.”
Must have in Cheryl’s preconstruction toolbox: Fast internet, new computers, and having a program that runs as well as STACK does is critical.
Cheryl has spent 13 years working in construction in one form or another. She stumbled into construction because her father was a cabinet builder. Cheryl was his right-hand man, growing up in the cabinet shop and learning. Later in life, she ran the finish department in another cabinet company.
TNT was looking to fill a position quickly to work in STACK, and Cheryl being a friend of the owner, said “I can figure out software, my brain works in technical details.” She started building out TNT’s items and assemblies in STACK. Since Cheryl joined and transitioned TNT to adopting STACK, their estimating team has become the most efficient department at the company. The sales team is also benefitting from STACK, using the materials list that STACK outputs.
She loves preconstruction’s back end, getting in and figuring out the formulas in STACK. “I can do the takeoffs, but I really like working in the details, building in the items, creating assemblies, building formulas that save everybody else time.” Even though it’s not physical and as tangible, when Cheryl creates assemblies that work and saves her team time, she feels hugely accomplished. “I get the same kind of accomplishment feeling working in formulas as I did when I installed or finished cabinets.”
Cheryl thinks women add a unique perspective to the construction industry. “Women think differently, sometimes more outside the box and less linear. We may see solutions not readily visible. Not better, not worse, it’s different and rounds out everything else.” She has seen a shift as well in our industry with more women. “It started when I worked in the cabinet shop. It’s not just the tough gals who are out doing it, it’s the smart gals too. We also have had more women join TNT since I started.”
Cheryl’s words of wisdom to the younger female generation? “One of our crew is staffed by a woman. She does a lot of the labor stuff, but it doesn’t have to look like that. There are so many possibilities and options. It’s not just sitting behind a desk. I get to use my brain, talk with my team, create something new. It’s been hugely empowering. Just remember, do what lights you up.”
Three Sons Home Improvements
Must have in Allie’s preconstruction toolbox: We don’t survive without QuickBooks and Excel, but I’m trying to make Excel go away because STACK will do what we need to do. We’re also leaning in towards Google Sheets and Docs so our guys can access information in the field.
Allie grew up with her uncle flipping houses and her mom helping with the projects. Construction has always been a part of her life, but not something she thought would be long term. But her career fell into her lap. Allie’s mom was in her position at Three Sons Home Improvements, and Allie was hired to help her. When her mom left, Allie took over. “My mom was my role model to get to where I am now.”
As a mom now herself, Allie brings a lot of how she manages her household into her work and managing projects. “Women in general are organized and think things through differently than men do. We bring a completely different set of eyes to projects.”
What does she love about preconstruction? Nothing is ever the same. “Every project, every house, every addition is always different. There’s a new problem to solve, new details to read, one is easy, the next one is incredibly difficult. I love that there is no monotony.”
Allie was the one responsible for bringing STACK to Three Sons. “STACK is my baby.” The company was using Vu360 prior to STACK, but when Allie took over, she said she can’t do any work this way. After researching, she found STACK had the solutions. Allie made a 15 slide PowerPoint to explain to her boss why they needed STACK. He made it through two slides and said, “Okay, you win, you can have it.”
STACK made her much faster, more organized, and she found it easy to work through a revision or a change order. It simplifies the way she works now. “While I was estimating, the reporting came out better. So everything I did was becoming more accurate, it was getting more organized, and because of that and how beautiful STACK is made, we got so busy that I had to hire two more takeoff operators because I didn’t have time. We’re two years in and I still don’t have STACK doing everything it could be doing for us because we have been outrageously busy.”
Allie said many of her coworkers were opposed to technology, but now they are coming to her saying they really like STACK and want to learn more. “I just need to wait until the coldest day of the year and we’re going to have a training day at the office.”
Allie’s words of wisdom to the younger female generation? “Don’t be afraid to get into it. If it’s interesting to you and you like the different obstacles that happen every day, it doesn’t matter what any guy might think. Whether you’re in the field or in the office. We can do anything, if not better, than they can.”
Lead Project Estimator, SealGuard
Must have in Kim’s preconstruction toolbox: Good plans. Which in turn makes good takeoffs and good bidding. Having STACK’s layers feature is super important, making takeoffs invisible when sharing drawings with my crews without markups.
Kim didn’t grow up with a background in construction. She came from a Fire and EMS career, but after dealing with some medical issues she needed a career change. The owners of SealGuard are good friends (and now mentors), so she started on the administrative side at the company. When an estimator left, Kim trained for the position and has been there three years now.
Kim loves digging into the details of preconstruction and understanding the scope of the project. STACK was already used at SealGuard when she was hired. When she started learning the program, she was thrilled. “I love STACK, it is so user friendly, it’s incredible. I was impressed with the options and how easy it was to navigate the program. The bid template is a great resource so there is no rework, and I’m learning it soon.” Kim also signed up for SmartUse and is super excited with two trainings down.
Kim has a female-owned supplier she works with that brings her inspiration. “She is very motivating and uplifting,” making her happy with her career choice in construction and excited about the skills women bring to the industry. “Women are very detailed and bring a lot of value. One word can change everything, especially when it comes to pricing and what you are responsible for at the job, so detail is important. It must be our nurturing gene.”
Kim’s words of wisdom to the younger female generation? “There are so many opportunities in construction for women. It is very flexible, with so much learning potential and room for growth. I started on the billing side and now I am Lead Project Estimator. It’s an incredible field and there is a need for more women in the industry.”