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Building Women Leaders in Construction

Breaking into leadership roles can be especially tough for women. But it is not because the skill, aptitude and ambition are not there. A 2023 McKinsey report (Women in the Workplace 2023 report | McKinsey) stated that the biggest hurdle women in the workforce face is the ability to advance into their first management position.  

“This year [2023], for every 100 men promoted from entry level to manager, 87 women were promoted.”  

This is known as the “broken rung” theory. The step into that initial management role is a critical rung on the career ladder, and without it, women cannot advance to higher positions. In turn, this creates greater gender disparity within an organization’s leadership team.  

The Kahua team spoke to several women in the construction and construction tech industries who shared a little bit about their own experiences breaking into management roles and who or what helped them get there.  

Cari Stieglitz, President of Kaivolve, shared that her managers played a critical part in her successes. She suggested that those who are interested in leadership or management roles be proactive and have open communications with their managers about what it will take to get to the next level.  

Similarly, Gayle Sanders, controller & project manager for BDR Partners stated, “The right connection [was key] ... both the actual connection to someone who could promote me and the connection(s) to people and projects that would give me the mentoring experience to prepare for the job I wanted.”  

With all the women Kahua spoke to about the challenges they have faced breaking into a management role within the construction industry, we saw two common themes arise: mentorship and advocacy. Having mentors both in and out of your direct management chain helped give women a broader view of how to successfully navigate the career ladder, while having internal advocates often helped women get nominated and selected for management roles within their organization.  

Here is the great part – anyone can be a mentor or advocate! And for women in the construction industry to see real equality, we need more mentorship and advocacy for women to be considered for advancement opportunities. No matter the role you are in, we encourage you to think of how you could help mentor or advocate for a smart, hard-working, construction-loving woman you know!  

About the Author

Sara Giddens is an Industry Director at Kahua specializing in government and commercial construction. She has over 10 years of experience around industry engagement, market research & strategy, and construction content creation.

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