About 1,000 middle and high school girls from Aldine High School donned hard hats and carried an air of anticipation and awe as they attended the She Builds Houston Construction Conference in October.
The event, hosted by Construction Career Collaborative and the National Association of Women in Construction, was held at the M.O. Aldine Education Center. Two dozen or more construction related companies set up booths to educate the girls on employment opportunities within their companies and the construction industry as a whole.
The conference was believed to be the largest all-female gathering of students and prospective employers in the industry.
The event began with a panel of women who are leaders within construction-related fields. GHBA’s CEO, Casey Morgan, was a panelist joining Sadie Rucker, CEO/Principal of Horizon Group; Janell Blackwell, chief estimator for Vaughn; Maria Robles, Union Carpenter for United Brotherhood of Carpenters; and Jennifer De Brown, Safety Advisor for Marek.
A moderator facilitated the panel discussion and asked each panelist to provide insight into their respective fields.
Casey discussed the growing trend in the residential construction industry where more women are working in the field, owning their own companies, and serving in executive positions. She provided information about the wide spectrum of opportunities for women in the construction industry, whether it is working in the trades, working within a company or advocacy work on behalf of the industry.
Casey also talked about how charitable the industry is and how many opportunities GHBA has afforded its members to give back to the community through the GHBA supported charities, HomeAid Houston and Operation Finally Home.
Casey concluded by encouraging the young women to continue to explore construction related classes and training, even if the programs are filled by mostly boys, and to remember how important it is to be their own advocate.
All the panelists commented that regardless of gender, hard work and persistence pays off.
“It was such a pleasure to participate in this event and I hope it continues to grow,” said Casey. “GHBA has been committed to advancing the benefits of our industry to younger generations for years as we have prioritized trades training education within the association. I particularly enjoyed addressing an all-girls audience because there are increasingly more opportunities for women in our industry. It’s an exciting time!”
While many industries across the country have fostered greater gender equity in recent years, careers in construction remain men dominant. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, there are only 1.1 million women to 10.1 million men working in construction.
In recent years, Texas legislators have enacted laws and allocated money that is designated to prepare more students for careers after high school, even if they are not attending college. The Texas Education Agency rewards districts and schools under the state academic accountability system for each student who receives an industry certification or completes courses aligned with a certification. In addition, lawmakers voted this spring to give more funds to districts that successfully prepare students for college, a career or the military.
“Getting women involved and excited has to happen early,” said Angela Robbins, the Construction Career Collaborative associate director. “We have to convince them it’s a great opportunity, we need to convince the parents, and we need to get them enrolled in the programs so they’re ready and prepared for us.”