August 17, 2017

Room to grow

Growing up surrounded by the construction industry, I remember there weren’t many women around the job sites my dad or my grandfather would bring me to. I would hear stories about superintendents and foremen – all of them men – accomplishing amazing things, and I’d also overhear stories I can only categorize as “for boys only.” I remember questioning ever being a part of any of it.

My dad, however, had other plans for me. He was always looking for opportunities to get me involved in the things he believed I would love if I gave them a try. He had to push me to join an all-boys hockey team when I was eight. Twelve years later, after my seasons playing ice hockey on the Colgate University women’s varsity team had ended, hockey had become a popular women’s sport. Today my daughter is one of eight girls on her team and it’s become commonplace to talk about women and ice hockey.

In construction, women are making advances as well. When I began working for the company, on the Sarah J. Rawson Elementary School in Hartford in the fall of 2004, there were only two other women in field management positions at O&G. It felt a little like joining an all-boys ice hockey team all over again. Today more and more women are appearing on our job sites in trade and management capacities. In fact, of the 32 hires in the Building Group over the past five years, nine of them were women in field management positions. That represents 28% of our total hires. The work is challenging and it demands more than forty-hour workweeks. I applaud these women (and their male counterparts, too) for their work ethic and many contributions. I am extremely proud of what I have seen happening at O&G.

Historically the presence of women in trades or construction management positions nationwide has been low. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, our percentage in the construction workforce in 2015 was just 7% of the total, or about 929,000 women.

We are seeing colleges and trade schools responding to this imbalance, encouraging women to pursue careers in construction and technical specialties. I’m hopeful, as stereotypes are fading and younger girls in middle and high schools are realizing they can succeed in the field, that we will continue to see more women joining the construction workforce.

There is certainly a lot of opportunity awaiting them. Companies across America, including ours, are eager to fill positions with qualified women. We are enthusiastic recruiters at the college level. We encourage teens at high school career days. We also invest in long-term, on-site efforts like the successful “Platt Builds” program at Orville H. Platt High School in Meriden that immerse interested boys and girls in the building process.

What I didn’t know I’d find when I started at O&G in 2004 was that I’d witness a rise in the number of women in construction that paralleled the rise of women playing ice hockey when I was younger. The positive change over the years in the sheer numbers, the attractiveness as a career, and the “enlightened” men who are supportive of women confirms that we are on the right track.

I write this letter to honor National Women in Construction Week, March 6th to12th. We believe it is important to recognize the gains that women have made, and will continue to make, in our industry and at O&G.

Christina Oneglia Rossi

Project Manager, Special Projects Group