AEMP Women in Heavy Equipment Management Leadership
Thursday, May 14, 2020
Posted by: AEMP
A woman in construction is not longer an oxymoron. Technical, cultural, and industry changes are creating career opportunities for women in fleet management and yellow iron operations that just a few years ago didn't seem possible or even exist.
Now that the old stereotypes, misconceptions and stigmas of females in construction equipment and fleet management jobs have faded into the past, women with established heavy equipment careers are finding they have a unique opportunity to help guide more females into what were once called 'non-traditional jobs' in construction.
During this year's CONNECT 2020 in Las Vegas, AEMP hosted Women in Equipment Leadership, a round table discussion on how to lead more women into construction careers and the supporting trades. The women who participated in the roundtable discussion spoke with authority about what today's women leaders can do to encourage willing employers and able women to team up to build successful careers.
According to a 2019 report completed by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), the number of women working in production trades increased 17.6 percent to 276,000 workers between 2017 and 2018. While over a quarter of million females in production and extraction are notable, the reality is that just 3.4 percent of these field jobs were held by women in 2018. Adding women office staff to these statistics still brings female participation in construction to less than 10 percent of the entire construction industry. On the positive side, the percentage of women classified as industry managers overall increased from 5.9 percent in 2003 to 7.7percent in 2018.
Navigating where and how to get on the fleet and heavy equipment career track can be challenging for women. Government sponsored apprenticeships and union training programs for women are growing, and private employers are training more women, in part to ease the current skilled worker shortage, but efforts build a well-defined career map need more attention.
With that in mind, Michael Lane leads by example and operates a foundation to help women find success in the heavy equipment operation segments of construction. An operating engineer herself for 13 years, Ms Lane is a whirlwind of enthusiasm and advocacy for women who are interested in and will benefit from a trades career, especially those women who labor under the description of 'disadvantaged'.
Lane's foundation, She Get It Done, creates and supports trades career opportunities using innovative social media and podcasts that both explains and promotes the trades. Lane also works with employers seeking to add greater diversity to their crews on how they can attract and retain women workers.
Lane has found that mentoring an inexperienced woman seeking a fulfilling trades career actually begins by educating her as to what occupations and opportunities exist and how her skill sets, such as attention to detail and interpersonal communication abilities, are exactly the foundation hiring managers are looking for when seeking new hires for training and apprentice programs. Lane tells women, "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Step outside your regular boundaries. It is when you push and stretch that you prove to your own mind just how capable you really are."
New technology and the ever-increasing reliance on digital data to improve operations have created access to jobs in building, extraction, production, and land improvement work that women with degrees in civil engineering, environmental sciences, and technology find attractive.
Natalie Kerschner is a successful data analyst with Branch Civil, and while her title doesn't immediately bring a dusty project site to mind, her work supports the rapidly developing data and IT segments driving increased efficiency and productivity in construction operations. Kirsher came to Civil from a recruiting background and took advantage of every opportunity she was offered to get in the field to get hands-on experience. "It was a bit intimidating for me at first because most of my team has 20 years or more experience under their belt, but I've found staying curious and asking questions has been a wonderful learning opportunity for me," Kiersher says. "I know I have my own things to offer when I come to the table and this industry has been amazing supportive."
Brianne Hayes, equipment operations manager for Sarasota Fleet Services in Sarasota, Florida, relies on data analysis to manage her fleet with peak efficiency. "Our whole operation depends on key performance indicators. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. I want to know my technicians productivity levels and everything about that piece of equipment," Hayes said.
AEMP posed this question to the Women in Equipment Leadership panel experts: What would you tell your younger self about how to be successful in your heavy equipment or construction career based on what you know now?
Here are some of their answers-
"If I were to tell myself something in the beginning it would be to engage faster and engage earlier. I was very hesitant to really get out and delve into the industry fully but ever since I've been more involved things have gotten better both personally and professionally."
"I would advise to give my younger self to get into organizations like AEMP early because they give you the opportunity to listen to someone else's issues and really understand what they are saying."
"Go into the position with an open mind and be receptive."
"I would probably tell myself is be more willing to step out of your comfort zone when you're younger and listen more than you're speaking."
"I would tell my younger self that my competence is not affected by someone else's opinion."
"Soak up any and all information you can get. Things have to change. I guess something that I still tell myself every day is just keeping swinging cause that's all you can do."
"I think as women, we're constantly trying to prove ourselves and our growth to the men in the industry. I let that be my motivating factor for a very long time. So I think I would tell my younger self that there's other motivation to have besides proving yourself and your worth to other people."