Creating Space For Black Professionals
How she got started
“When I was a little girl I always loved looking at houses and buildings and was curious about how they were put together. As a teenager I used to fix things around the house and paint. I worked in a lot of different fields but for some reason I was always pulled back into construction. After working for a tower company, I decided to go back and finish my degree so that I could work on construction full time”
What are the challenges for women in construction & how can one overcome them?
“A lot of people think that because you are a woman, you are not as passionate and not as qualified. A lot of women in construction are not given the same respect as other men. On a more trivial side, many women are challenged with remaining feminine without being stereotyped or treated differently. It’s important to be yourself and not feel intimidated by your colleagues”
What actions can businesswomen take to better position themselves for success?
“One of the biggest things is to stay up to date on the latest trends and business developments. Get a mentor, and remain professional at all times so that you are taken seriously. Also, joining professional organizations is a way to connect with other professionals and sharpen your skills. But most importantly, don’t be afraid to be the only woman in the room”.
What is one of the most common misconceptions about construction in general?
Most people just think of construction as unskilled labor. People don’t realize that even if you don’t have a formal education that construction still involves some of the things that you would learn if you did have a formal education. For example, Algebra – why would I ever use this? But you actually use Algebra quite a bit in construction. Science and Geography classes are also important and are used in everyday construction activities.
How has the construction industry changed since you’ve entered your field?
There are a lot more things that you do with technology. The biggest thing I can think of is how people conduct safety training. You can now do it with Virtual Reality tools that simulate a real jobsite. Another great tech tool is Building Information Modeling or BIM . It allows you to do walk-throughs where you map where everything is in the buildings before you even go inside of an actual building.
It’s also used for a number of different trades – for example, many of the trades have a certain amount of space to build or create assets. This helps ensure that appropriate information is being created and can help prevent issues with quality control and safety.
What can minorities do to position themselves for professional opportunities in the construction industry?
They need to attend all the free classes possible. Get a good mentor. Be open to learning and understanding other trades within their industry.
Be committed to really doing the research and see if it’s something that they truly want to do. Sometimes you should partner with other companies before you jump out there. Sometimes you may think you know something, but don’t know all the ins and outs.
What should companies be doing to recruit minority talent?
Reach out to people in your community and at community colleges and high schools to get kids interested at an early age. They can achieve this by hosting or attending Career fairs, recruiting at colleges, and working with trade organizations in their areas.
Many companies are not hiring minorities because they assume they are not qualified. This is a common misconception that happens when companies are disconnected from minorities in the industry. That’s why it’s important to get young people interested at an early age, and to stay connected with trade organizations that may be a great resource for new talent and partnership opportunities.
Valerie is a graduate of East Carolina University where she majored in Construction Management and Finance. She currently resides in the Charlotte area, and is a member of several nonprofit and trade associations that promote Diversity and Inclusion.