Women in Construction
Alumnae of Purdue's Construction Engineering and Management division have launched the Women in Construction (WinC) mentoring program.
While women make up nearly 50% of the general workforce, they represent only 9% of the construction workforce. Of those women in construction, only 3% hold professional positions. WinC founders Lindsey Gray, Peggy Newquist, and Anne Bigane Wilson established WinC at Purdue to help change those statistics. Through the partnership of Purdue CEM alumnae, WinC promotes the professional development of young women in construction and helps recruit and retain women in the CEM program.
The increased participation of women in construction is essential for the industry to survive. As the need for new workers increases by 2 million through 2020, construction firms must avoid an enormous labor shortage. "It can't all be men," says Newquist. "We have to embrace women and all diversities, and it's going to make much better projects in the end."
The WinC program, which has proven successful since its inception, pairs CEM alumnae with female students preparing to experience their first internships. This provides students entering the construction workforce at the end of their freshman year with a point of contact and mentor to help them get acclimated to the industry and provide them with insight and encouragement.
"The industry is missing out on an enormous talent pool if they are not able to attract and retain professional women," Newquist says. "We [in the WinC program] want to make sure our women students have the support they need to not just survive but to thrive in the construction industry."
WinC's core leadership team meets with interested female students each spring to pair them up with mentors living across the country. Many students' internships are located near their mentors, enabling them to meet up at least once throughout the summer in addition to interacting through phone, email, or video chat.
Each summer, mentors and their mentees complete a list of objectives together:
- Freshmen gain a trusted advisor in their mentor and become familiar with the construction industry
- Mentors answer questions that mentees may have about what to expect during internships, how to set goals during internships, and how to follow through with those goals
- Mentees communicate with mentors any concerns or questions they may have about internships, Purdue courses, industry, etc.
- Mentees interview at least five people at their internship company with WinC-supplied questions to get them engaged in the full body of work that is done at a construction firm
- Mentors and mentees choose a Ted Talk to watch and discuss together
- Mentees attend at least one industry event with their mentors
- Mentees create or update their LinkedIn profiles
- Mentees update their resumes with help from their mentors
Annie Gassner, a senior in CEM, says the WinC program has helped her realize the importance of mentorship and has given her more confidence in her internships. When feeling frustrated because she felt her supervisor continually underestimated her ability to perform tasks, especially on the construction site, Gassner turned to her WinC mentor, Sarah Paulsen (BSCEM '15). "I felt as though one of the male interns was getting more responsibilities than I was," says Gassner. "I brought up my concerns with Sarah, and she gave me advice on how to approach the topic with my supervisor and how to voice that I wanted to be given more responsibilities. It's great to have a mentor who's been in the same shoes as me, who I can turn to when I'm facing challenges at work."
WinC Leadership Team
If you have any questions or would like to get involved in Purdue CEM's Women in Construction mentoring program, please feel free to contact one of the women below.
Peggy Newquist, BSCEM 1986
CEM Undergraduate Placement Coordinator