A construction professional shares her tips for succeeding in a male-dominated industry.
4 min read
This story originally appeared on Ellevate
A couple of years ago, in a "Women in Construction" session, I was asked to present my latest project accomplishment, and to share my experience in terms of the challenges and risks involved, the processes we adopted to manage them and how the project succeeded considering these conditions.
My presentation covered the technical and project management elements of the project, but I felt that the presentation needed a little more authenticity, so I decided to also talk about being a woman in construction and specifically what it takes to succeed in this field; a challenging field with a lot of potential. I wanted to share my perspective on how woman can excel in such a domain, and why. So I listed some of the attributes that are associated with women and how we function, in the context of how they affect our leadership skills and abilities. Here are some of the important points I shared.
This is a very serious and real thing. Women are typically known to have a strong instinct or "gut feeling." We often use this to forecast or anticipate certain situations, and the more years of experience we have, the more harnessed this intuition. We employ this in aspects such as risk management, which is critical to successful project management.
By nature, who can deny that? We are not good at taking "no" for an answer, and are experts at multiple attempts at trying to get what we want. Consequently women leading projects, pass on to their team the quality of not giving up, and tackling challenges as they come up efficiently.
We have proved through the ages that we can have a conversation, send an email and take a call all at once! It doesn’t mean that it's right, but the essence of project management especially, large scale complex projects, require the management of many different streams of work, and different team members, managing of risk, ensuring time/budget and scope are met.
This does not mean weakness; it means the ability to be authentic and open, to listening and understanding of surroundings, to different conditions and to assessing challenges or risks. Women are well known for their ability to reach down to a part of them that is creative and can bring new, innovative ideas, just because of their open minds and hearts.
5. Detail orientation
Consider our wardrobes as a simple example — we put the effort in the simple things. It’s not about dressing to go to a party, but about the overall presentability. Paying attention to details is important in construction especially when you’re building something from a drawing on a piece of paper and turning small ideas into big projects. Detail is critical to complete and successful delivery.
We tune to what’s going on around us, all the time. Whether it was the project and the details, or the teams that we work with. Women are always "switched on." We ensure that harmony is maintained because we keep our minds and hearts engaged in what we’re doing. Our teams know we care for them, and are loyal because of this, and our management knows that we are committed to them, and they appreciate that.
7. Relationship management
There are different viewpoints associated with this, but the bottom line is women tend to exhibit a high level of diplomacy, and often, social and emotional intelligence and tact that allows for management of different stakeholders efficiently. We know what we need and how to manage relationships to achieve those professional goals. With that being said, we are able to be firm and tough, the same way we are able to lenient and flexible.
These are only a few of the reasons why I think women can be very successful in the tough fields such as construction. Also in addition to those, women have a great chance to be inspiring which makes the difference between leading and managing. Construction and project management in general necessitates leadership and I believe it all can be applied to many more other fields and businesses.
To all women, inspire, lead and make a difference!
(By Randa Hakim. Hakim is a Senior Programs Manager at GE. Her strong program management expertise coupled with her engineering background has helped her develop and lead highly productive cross-functional teams towards outstanding measurable results.)