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Women In Hard Hats ‘Are A Growing Trend’ In The Construction Industry

Published Thursday, April 25, 2019
by The Huntsville (Alabama) Business Journal
Women In Hard Hats ‘Are A Growing Trend’ In The Construction Industry

(MADISON, ALABAMA) - Nationally, women make up less than 10% of the construction industry - 9.1%, according to the National Association Of Women In Construction (NAWIC), but that number has been steadily increasing over the past decade, so much that the NAWIC started a Women in Construction Week, held annually in March that highlights women as viable components of the construction industry and raises awareness of the opportunities available for women in the construction industry.

Hoar Construction, headquartered in Birmingham and contracted to build the new Rocket City Trash Pandas’ Baseball Stadium in Madison, has long since broken through.  When it comes to women wearing hard hats on a construction site, Hoar Construction says women are beginning to dominate in engineering and project management positions within their company.

Hoar Construction’s female workforce is up to 20%, but what kind of challenges do women face on a construction site and how do so many find their way into the business?

Amanda Black is a Safety Manager for Hoar Construction and is with the crew at the baseball stadium.  Amanda’s 29 years old and her parents have worked for the company for more than 32 years.  “I ‘grew up on a’ construction site,” said Black. “As a child, I ‘picked things apart to see how they were built.’  Even with toys, ‘I wasn’t interested in the thing itself.’  ‘I was more interested in how it was put together and what was inside that made it work.’”

Black went to college on a scholarship, but the school didn’t offer academics in engineering or construction.  Then she decided to come back to what she knew.  Now, 11 years later, she’s working for Hoar Construction and is back in school for construction management.

“No one ‘should be limited in what they want to be, if they have the heart for it,’” Black said. “You ‘have to have a thick skin to be a woman among so many men, but you need a thick skin in life anyway, right?’”

As a Safety Manager, Amanda notes everyone on a construction site has a very important job and the more skills sets you have, the more it benefits you: “I started out as a Laborer trying my hands at carpentry work, concrete, and I know how to operate some of the equipment.  I also help with the shell work on empty buildings and cross over to quality control when they need help.  ‘It’s what you do - you work your way up.’”

Jessica Yarbrough grew up learning the cabinetry trade from her father who worked as a boat captain three days on and three days off.  Cabinetry was a hobby he excelled in and still does.  Jessica can build cabinets, but she chose not to pursue the craftsmanship side of construction. Instead, she has spent nearly eight years traveling from project to project with her husband who is a superintendent for Hoar Construction.

Over the years, Yarbrough has worked on a Disney World project in Orlando, built a physical fitness facility for the Army in Clarksville, Tennessee, built an outdoor shopping center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and a commissary at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida.  Now she’s in Arlington, Virginia, working for the first time without her husband on a 12-story mid-rise apartment building.

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