It’s no secret that there’s a shortage of skilled electrical workers available in our industry (we’ve even written about it recently). But beyond a general shortage of workers, there’s also a more specific shortage of women in construction.
The industry is historically male dominated, with women working in the field facing challenges their male co-workers often don’t encounter. At Miller Electric, we are proud of our part in changing the status quo. We know women can help all of us thrive in the workforce.
Like Miller, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) supports women in the construction industry. The NAWIC provides networking and educational opportunities for its members — such as scholarship and mentorship programs — while advocating for the advancement of women in the construction industry and helping them to pursue new opportunities and successes.
This past spring, we spent some time talking with six women working in different roles across Miller Electric to hear, in their words, about their experiences at Miller and what it’s like to be a woman in construction.
Now, as we start winding down our yearlong celebration of Miller’s 110th year in business, we’ve reconnected with a few of those women — as well as a few new faces — to talk about their membership in the Omaha chapter of the NAWIC, and to ask their advice for women starting their construction careers.
“For me it’s the networking, the community and the friendships,” said Lynette Smith, a collections manager at Miller, about the NAWIC. “These women are me — they’ve been in my shoes. They get where I’m coming from and the challenges a woman faces in the male-dominated industry. We help each other to be the best we can be, then push each other to be even greater.”
The sense of community gained from membership within the NAWIC is clear, and Miller appreciates the networking opportunities it offers to women in the industry. “Being able to speak with other women in the construction business — mentors, peers, experts — is very helpful,” said Rhonda Manka, an administrative assistant at Miller. “We are the minority in this field and should always take the opportunity to network with other women in the industry.”
Organizations like the NAWIC are making great strides in giving women an equal footing when it comes to establishing their careers in construction. In Omaha, the NAWIC is an invaluable resource in providing advice and connecting those just starting out with more experienced professionals.
Advice for Women Considering a Career in Construction
Megan Manka, a third-year apprentice at Miller Electric, agrees with her mother Rhonda that women still thinking about their career path should consider the financial benefits that a career in electrical construction offers. “I wanted a higher education,” said Megan. “Becoming an electrician helped me achieve my goals without financially crippling me.”
Lynette, a 15-year industry veteran at Miller, has this advice for women looking to get into the business. “Never give up. If you want something bad enough, prove your value, prove that you can achieve what you want,” said Lynette “The more you believe in yourself the more others will see your value.”
“Trade schools are a great alternative to college if you want to pursue a higher education and do some hands-on learning,” added Rhonda.
The construction industry has come a long way in the past few years, striving to achieve a more level playing field between men and women, but there is still a lot of work to be done. At Miller, we recognize the outstanding strides the NAWIC has made, and we are proud to emulate their values in our approach to fairness and equality in the workplace.
“Go for it,” said Lisa Beresiwsky, an estimator at Miller. “There are lots of opportunities for personal and career growth in the construction industry!”