WHM 2023: Profiles
DG Women in the Field
To close out Women's History Month 2023, we're shining a spotlight on the women of DG who get things done on jobsites as part of our Project Management, Architecture, Field, and Safety teams. We talked to four women in various roles to get their perspective on life on the jobsite and at DG:
Field Administrative Project Manager
1. What do you love about being on site?
TP: Being able to take ownership of my work and be more hands-on.
TF: I love seeing what I designed come to life. Seeing everything coming together in real life helps design for a better construction.
DR: I love being a part of the construction process from start to finish. There is such a feeling of accomplishment when you can see the finished project based on where you started. I also love to travel and this gives me the opportunity to do that.
AP: How much changes in 24 hours. Not one day is the same as the one before. I like the interaction between contractors, client and peers, the problem solving that takes place while on site, and the decision making that has to happen in order to not delay activities.
"I love being a part of the construction process from start to finish... there is such a feeling of accomplishment."
2. What's a unique challenge about being on site?
TP: Work-life balance is difficult to maintain. I like to have hobbies outside of work and I have to work constantly to carve out the time for them.
TF: On site there'll be a different crisis every five minutes, so it's important to learn how to prioritize, to look for the answer, contact who can help in case you can't solve it by yourself and managing the contractors towards the solution.
DR: Managing personal or family time can be a challenge for anyone working onsite and away from home. You learn to prioritize to spend quality time with family. I have a large family that is always willing to work around my time at home and my husband has the flexibility to be able to travel to spend time with me.
AP: I have now over a decade working in construction, from field engineer to Project Manager. I find it's always tough to find the appropriate wardrobe to wear. From clunky steel toed boots to oversized safety vests, it's as if they are trying to discourage female presence in the construction industry. It's hard to find things that will make me look professional and also work with the site conditions. I suggest a 'button up and jeans' approach.
3. In general, how many other women are usually on site?
TP: Depending on the stage of the project, it usually ranges between 0 to 3 - not very many.
TF: Rarely, one other woman. Usually just me.
DR: On my current project, I am the only fulltime Dennis Group employee. There are 2 others traveling to site as scheduled, and we have approximately 5 female contractors.
AP: I'd say between 2-3, but until recently I have been the only woman on a site on many projects. Our company has become more diverse in the last 5 years and that has led to more women engineers being on site. On my last job I had women working alongside me for the entire duration of the project.
"On my last job I had women working alongside me for the entire duration of the project."
4. Have you run into any problems or challenges being a woman on site?
TP: Of course. I find communication style is generally different from men to women. Women in construction are not very common. Women in leadership roles in construction are even less common. Often times, I have to adjust to a style of communication that does not come naturally to me because I am a woman.
TF: The challenges are usually contractors belittling us, doubting our instructions and second guessing our suggestions. Once a contractor made an obscene gesture at me and another architect. We reported this instance to the CM and also involved HR.
DR: I feel traditionally women have not been taken as seriously as men in the construction field. As more women work onsite, I see can see that changing. I think as a rule, women must present themselves in a way to ensure that you are considered truly a part of the team and you have something to contribute to the process. My role is a relatively new position so there are challenges to ensuring that others understand what the role is, what this adds to the onsite team and what I can do to help.
AP: Not personally, but I also have a big personality and am not afraid to speak up. If someone is speaking over me or being disrespectful I flat out call them on it. You would be surprised how many men don't realize they are over explaining things. I always approach the situation with respect and have had great success with it.
5. What's something you're looking forward to in your career?
TP: Becoming a team lead.
TF: I learned that in this field the more you see, the better you'll do your job, so I plan to keep experiencing the project phases, learning how to design better, bringing back the knowledge and optimizing the projects I work on. Being able to find solutions for problems that you previously needed help for is a very good feeling.
DR: I'm looking forward to working with other members of the Field Team on my next project. I have been very fortunate to work with some great people so far.
AP: I'm looking forward to continuing on the path I am in right now. But also make myself available as a member of the next generation of Dennis Group Leaders.
"Being able to find solutions for problems that you previously needed help for is a very good feeling."
6. Is there a project that sticks out in your memory, for good or bad reasons?
TP: I don't have a favorite project yet. All the projects I have been involved in have been a challenge and have helped me to grow and become more confident on the jobsite. I enjoy a good challenge.
TF: Project 6728 (Dot's, Edgerton). I broke my ankle on site during a snow storm. I thought I would never go back to site after that and only 3 months later I was able to return and finish the project. It was a very good closure for a very bad experience. I had DG's full support and it really made me feel like they trusted me to finish what I started and supported my healing process.
DR: I am currently working on my second project for Taylor Farms Fire Rebuild in Salinas, CA. This has been a very challenging project with an aggressive schedule but the team has been great. We have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. My first project was the Kerry Plant in Rome, GA. This was my first time working on a construction site. I started in a temporary position, then accepted a fulltime position less than a year later. The site team on this project was a great group to work with and one of the main reasons I decided to join Dennis Group fulltime.
AP: Taylor Farms Gonzales, CA. I was Project Engineer, living on site and doing 10-day rotations. That was my first experience long term on a job site and I really enjoyed it. Lately, SunOpta in Midlothian, TX. My role was different as a Project Manager but I spent 50% of my time on site. Both have been great projects with many different lessons learned. All of which could not have been possible sitting behind a desk.
"All the projects I've been involved in have been a challenge and helped me to grow and become more confident on the jobsite."
7. Do you have any advice for young women starting out in this field?
TP: Just go for it, and don't get discouraged when you have small failures. Learn from mistakes and be better for it.
TF: Ask questions and be open to learn with everybody around you, we're a team and much stronger working together. Check information with as many people as needed to make sure you're moving in the right direction and making the right decision for the project. Know it's ok and you can ask to get out of a uncomfortable situation if ever facing one.
DR: The first thing that I would advise is to understand that working in the field means traveling and working away from family and friends. Also always stand your ground and never feel like you do not have a voice. There are so many opportunities in the field and no limit to how far you can go. Never be afraid to raise your hand or your voice if needed.
AP: It is a steep learning curve at the beginning. I always recommend partnering up with someone that has more experience. Listen and learn. Look at what works for you from how others do it in the field and adjust according to how you feel more comfortable doing the same task. If you don't know something - do not make it up - just say you will find out and get back to them. Learn people's names, treat everyone with respect and expect the same respect back. If it is not given - bring it up to your manager or lead CM.
Join our flagship Employee Resources Group, the Women @ DG ERG, as a member or ally!