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Written by: Heidi Bauer, Construction Manager

Just a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being one of five women working together on the Pennsy Trail project in Haverford Township, PA, briefly outnumbering the men onsite. In over 20 years in the industry, this was a first for me – I had never before witnessed more women than men working on a job site. I am immensely proud to have reached this milestone with TPD alongside such amazing women. However, while we have unquestionably made great strides in the industry related to diversity, equity and inclusion of minorities in the workplace, sadly there remain a number of issues that persist, which can serve as deterrents to women and others pursuing careers in our industry. In honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to discuss a couple of the issues I have perceived working in the field.  

This year I have had the opportunity to work with and mentor several young women who have recently joined TPD’s Construction Services Department, and I have greatly enjoyed their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. I value the fresh perspectives they bring to their projects, and I appreciate their intense desire to collaborate and communicate with everyone on the team. I have watched these young women begin to grow comfortable in their work boots, I have seen them adapt quickly to a variety of conditions faced in the field, and perhaps most importantly, I have had the opportunity to watch them gain confidence in themselves while navigating unfamiliar territory as they begin to build the solid foundation of experience on which they will rely in the future. 

Self-confidence is crucial to being effective in doing the work that we do. While building confidence is something we all struggle with in our careers, women in the field can suffer blows to their self-respect and self-esteem that are, quite frankly, unmatched anywhere else in our lives. Regrettably, I have personally witnessed countless dehumanizing and demoralizing behaviors directed at women in this field over the years. While the strength, composure, and resilience these women maintain when they head back out there to confront these behaviors anew each day has certainly impressed me, it pains me to know that women face such complex issues on the job – issues that can so effectively destroy every shred of confidence they have started to build. Fortunately, these behaviors are indeed phasing out of this industry, but we can’t forget that they still exist and lurk under the surface on some of our projects. If we want to effectively support our female team members, we must be aware that some of this behavior still occurs in the industry and even on TPD projects. 

Another issue that women frequently experience relates to inclusion. It’s hard to understand exactly why some folks choose to exclude others from discussions and activities on the jobsite at times, but there’s no doubt that gender, age and experience play a large role in these decisions. As support for our younger staff especially, it is important that we work to include them in as many of the internal project discussions as possible, so they can begin connecting these discussions to the direction the work takes in the field. 

In the ongoing fight for equal rights, whether they be in the workplace or in other aspects of our lives, we must continue having the difficult conversations that can open the door to effective communication and help us to gain a healthy understanding of our differing needs on our projects and beyond. I am forever grateful to these young women who have been teaching me so much as we work together towards building our collective futures.  

In honor of the women who blazed the trails we follow, and in appreciation of the women who are shaping our pathways for the future, “Always speak up if you experience any mistreatment. Keeping silent only exacerbates the situation and can potentially harm others down the line.” – Katelyn B., TPD, Construction Services