Women Leaders Offer Advice on How to Build Construction Careers

The Build Your Future Arizona initiative is designed to educate people about the opportunities available in the skilled trades industry, as well as provide a place to find information on training and available jobs. The goal of BYFAZ is to create a skilled trades workforce who wants construction careers to keep up with the growing demand in Arizona and the rest of the United States.

Women in the skilled trades profession are a vital part of the workforce, but the challenge is to get the attention of young women who may not see themselves fitting into construction careers. In Arizona, the industry is fortunate to have a large contingent of accomplished women in the construction industry who have risen through the ranks and have become executives and built successful construction careers. Three of these women, Kimberly Davids, general manager of Weitz Construction; Michelle Walker, vice president of finance and administration for SSC Underground; and Antonya Williams, senior vice president of business development for the Southwest Region at McCarthy Building Companies; are great examples of the kinds of careers women in construction can create for themselves. These women provided some insight into what challenges they faced coming up through the industry and what are the traits that made them successful.

Michelle Walker

Q: What advice would you give women who are just entering the construction industry that want to advance in their careers like you have?

A: Have humble confidence — don’t act like you’re out to prove something, but feel comfortable that you have an important role to play. Don’t try to be one of the boys — you’re a woman, in construction — you can be both. If you get treated differently — examine the intent before getting offended. Are they trying to diminish you, or just be gentlemen? 9.9 times out of 10 I’ve found that any sort of different treatment comes from a place of care, not discrimination.

Q: What were the biggest challenges for you early in your career and what did you do to overcome those?

A: 22 years ago, construction in Arizona was very much a “good old boys” network still. More than being a woman in construction, being young was the biggest challenge. While being young in any field even today can create challenges to your credibility, it felt especially so in construction. To overcome both being a woman and young, learning to listen more than speaking was key — learning everything I could and waiting until I had enough knowledge to add value to the conversation/process. I had to learn that nobody likes a know-it-all, especially if they don’t know it all!

Q: What are the key traits for success in this industry?

A: Perseverance — sticking it out when the going gets tough. Faith — knowing that when it looks hopeless, things will get better. Courage — being willing to take risks and do things you’ve never done before. Teamwork — no project can be built by one person or one company or one trade. It takes us all.

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