As the executive director of Professional Women in Construction (PWC), my main priority is getting women business. PWC is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting and supporting women in the construction industry. New York is our founding chapter, and we have three additional chapters in Connecticut, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. We have gained interest from other areas of the country and are excited to expand. I have been in this role for nearly a year and a half, and have quickly realized there is one key component that is more important than anything else, and that is building a community. My vision is a diverse and inclusive community of both women and men focused on promoting women who have contributed to the industry in innovative ways, and those who have pushed the status quo. We all know the importance of relationships and networking in the construction industry. Creating a space where this common interest (business development) is paired with social gatherings, meaningful conversations and support for all, while also incorporating trends and a full representation of the industry is a valuable asset. Building this community takes time and effort, from not only women, but men alike. We are building this community through three main areas: networking events; scholarship and mentorship programs; and supporting minority and women-owned businesses. In addition to these areas, we expanded into others, including golfing, running and dinners together.
PWC was founded in 1980, and we have long been known for our networking events. These events include insightful industry panel discussions, inspiring galas honoring outstanding women, mega construction project presentations, and member-only networking opportunities. The purpose of these events is for people to gain insight into industry trends, while also building valuable relationships. We have been successful at creating this space, and because of this, we do attract (and welcome!) men. For each event, the goal is to have women represent at least50 percent of the speakers. The purpose of this is twofold: first, to give women experience participating on panels and second, to identify influential women in the industry. Providing women with this experience allows them to pursue other opportunities to speak, helping to diversify broader industry events. These events provide a foundation to introduce people to decision makers. And when these decision makers are women, we are beyond thrilled to highlight and promote them. Our emphasis is on women talking about business versus women talking about being women. The value of this focus is simple: women know business. These events also follow key projects in the construction industry. A presentation from the Port Authority on the expansion of LaGuardia Airport earlier this year drew an engaged crowd and a presentation from the president of Moynihan Station Development on the expansion of Penn Station into the Farley Center offered listeners unique project-specific insights and connections. PWC’s events also highlight key players in the industry. Our members were introduced to five principal architects at our annual Architects & Engineers event, and four leading developers at our Developers’ Forum. In addition to PWC’s panel events, we invite our community into the offices of prominent industry trailblazers. Bjarke Ingels Group invited the PWC community to their office for a presentation by four of their female architects, and Toby Moskovits welcomed PWC into her office for a panel presentation on a recent project and discussion on future projects. Both events were intimate gatherings and offered networking opportunities with major decision makers in the industry. Our PWC member-only networking events have proven extremely popular. The first one we hosted at a wine and chocolate bar, and the second was at View of the World, overlooking the World Trade Center campus. At one networking event, we had attendees place their business card in a bucket at the entrance, and five were drawn. Those five were called to introduce themselves to the group, becoming the program for the evening. They each explained the reason for their attendance and their goals for being involved with PWC. All five walked away with new business prospects.
Mentorship & Scholarship
Early in 2016, we put together a mentorship panel, and it was clear that both the mentors and the mentees had something to gain from this type of relationship. The mentors expressed an ability to learn new technology trends from their mentees, while the mentees expressed interest in gaining institutional knowledge within the industry from mentors. Mentorship is a new priority that we will start during the coming year through a pilot program. The idea is to introduce emerging professionals to experienced professionals with the goal of inspiring new knowledge, imparting wisdom and offering support. We hope to expand it to engage high school and university students. Introducing girls to construction-related professions at an early age will lead to broader involvement and the inclusiveness of women in the industry. And the women who have set the bar so high is invaluable. This year we raised funds to revamp our scholarship program and
will continue to have specific fundraisers to grow it. Our scholars will get more than money; they will have access to our community and receive ongoing support as they enter the workforce.
Starting your own business comes with major risks and unknown stresses. This experience is often times exemplified when women and minorities take the plunge, simply because of breaking into an industry that has long been led by a group lacking diversity. We want to support and encourage those ready to take this leap. Many programs exist to support the growth of minority and women owned enterprises. We at PWC recognize and support these efforts. We are excited about New York State’s goal of 30 percent contracting utilization for MWBEs. If this goal is met, New York State will have the highest utilization of MWBE in state contracts in the nation. To reach this goal, I believe the solution is a mixture of bringing on more MWBE subcontractors, as well as expanding the capacity of MWBE firms. We are putting together an Advisory Board to direct PWC as we figure out the best place for us to help the state reach these goals. I believe in these goals and am confident that PWC can have an impact in making significant gains towards achieving them.
These three organizational priorities–networking events, our scholarship/mentorship program, and supporting MWBEs— are the driving force in creating our community. In addition, we have started to pursue activities like heading to the driving range with women ready to pick up the game of golf, getting a group together to run a half marathon in Central Park at the end of April, and hosting dinners connecting movers and shakers in the industry. We are always looking for new ideas to expand and grow to meet the needs of women, and men, in the industry. PWC is more than a women’s organization. We fundamentally believe that promoting women in the construction industry is good for growth and prosperity in the industry at large. We include men in this goal because together, we are better.