Women in Construction Week celebrates the growing role of women in the construction industry and raises awareness of the opportunities available for women in construction. Several women construction leaders in the Chicago area recently weighed in on their experience in the industry.
For today’s installment, we highlight Keri Woodring of James McHugh Construction.
How did you get into the construction industry?
Woodring: From an early age I enjoyed designing and building things. I applied to several colleges and was accepted into an architecture program. I was all set to go into architecture but at the last minute I had second thoughts. At 18, trying to make a major life decision, I thought “engineering is similar to architecture, right?” I decided to go to Purdue, which led me into construction engineering and an internship for a general contractor. Oh, how I was wrong about engineering and architecture being similar, but it got me into construction and the wonderful career I have today at McHugh.
Describe a typical day on the job.
Woodring: My typical day starts with a list of outstanding items to be completed in between meetings to coordinate labor, materials, schedule, and pricing. Usually within an hour that list gets put aside and I start working on more pressing issues which range from pricing a revision, to figuring out why labor or material didn’t show up as promised, to determining how to handle any unforeseen conditions that arose.
What have been some of the biggest obstacles (if any)?
Woodring: The biggest obstacle is always having to prove yourself to new people on the team. When men see other men, they automatically trust what they are saying until proven otherwise. It’s the opposite with women; it’s distrust until it’s proven we are knowledgeable and trustworthy.
What was your favorite construction project and why?
Woodring: That’s a hard question as all projects have their unique aspects. My most recent project, Sable Hotel at Navy Pier, was the most complex. It is a hybrid between new building and a renovation project on a 100-year-old pier a mile into Lake Michigan. This mostly being done while Navy Pier was open to the public provided unique and interesting challenges.
What do you like most about your job?
Woodring: I love that every day is different and getting to see the transformations that happen on every project, whether it’s a new building changing the skyline or renovating an existing building into a beautiful new space. Being part of the wonderful teams that are transforming the city is magical.
How has the participation of women in construction changed over the years and where do you see it heading?
Woodring: Along with more women in construction overall, the number of women in leadership and executive roles has grown substantially over the years. With the support system between women increasing, more and more women will enter the construction industry.
What is your advice to women wanting to get into construction?
Woodring: Project confidence even when you are unsure and do not let the negativity around you get you down. You are knowledgeable—just keep moving forward.