1 in 10 of the entire U.S. construction workforce are women. Even fewer are women in the field and specialized trades. While more women are joining the construction industry than ever before, the numbers still show a stark disparity between females and their male counterparts. Despite the construction industry having a closer pay gap than the national average, there are still vast improvements to be made to ensure the playing field is level. Construction companies need to make a concerted effort – but where do they begin? Start by fostering a culture that embraces diversity, creating the stepping stones for equity and inclusion. While it’s easier said than done, these incremental changes will entice more women into this field.
The visibility of Women in Construction Month and International Women’s Day is just the start. We are proud to feature the achievements of Savannah Ramos (Director of Purchasing) and Victoria Lee (Electrical Apprentice). These two show there is no one “right” way to get into the industry and no shortage of opportunities for women.
As the Director of Purchasing for PRIME’s Northern California branch, Savannah Ramos has endured a series of challenges to get to the top of her field. A career in construction wasn’t in her original path. She was studying to go into Social Work when she was presented with the opportunity to work as a Buyer for an electrical company. It wasn’t easy – she woke up at 6am to start her job, sometimes ending her day at a local McDonalds to use their free Wi-Fi to complete her schoolwork, as she didn’t have internet at home.
Working as a Buyer gave her security to finish her schooling, working up in the ranks to Purchaser, where her budding passion for the electrical industry bloomed. Her goal of becoming a Social Worker was replaced with the drive to grow as a leader in construction. The path towards leadership presented her with the challenge of learning to understand team dynamics and how to coach her team more effectively.
Her desire to grow as a leader and build her business experience led her to pursue an MBA. She was hungry for growth, undeterred by her pregnancy through school, she achieved her goal of graduating with a Master’s degree. Savannah has now worked in her field for over 13 years, currently leading a diverse team at PRIME. While her education helped her gain stability in her career, Savannah shared, “Having an education doesn’t mean you will be successful. You need to be willing to put in the work.” Throughout her journey, it’s clear that her drive led her to success.
Victoria Lee was working retail when she had a chance encounter with a customer who shared stories of their career in the trades. Intrigued by their story, she saw a new opportunity to provide for herself in a challenging, yet dynamic field. Rather than continuing to invest in her Business Law degree, she chose to turn her focus to the trades. She enrolled in ANEW, a pre-apprentice program that introduced her to each trade and facilitated training, mock interviews, and assistance on how to apply for jobs through the union.
She joined Laborers Local 242, spending the next seven (7) years as a Laborer. She faced backlash from friends and family saying, “Being a Laborer wasn’t a job for a woman.” Victoria saw this career path as an opportunity to better her life, regardless of her gender. Being a Laborer as a woman was tough – not only because of the mental challenges of working in a male dominated field, but the physical demands. She even took up weightlifting to become stronger, proving to herself that she has a place in construction.
Working alongside other tradespeople sparked her interest in electrical work. She changed directions two years ago and joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Victoria is currently an Electrical Apprentice, dreaming to become a Foreman, with her ultimate goal of being a Superintendent. She states, “I’ve seen more equality in this union than any of the other trades I’ve been in before,” believing that it’s important to continue to change the perspectives of a woman’s capabilities in the field.