UToledo College of Engineering Celebrates Women in Construction

March 11, 2022 | Diversity, News, UToday, Alumni, Engineering
By Diana Van Winkle

Women make up about 10% of the construction industry’s workforce, according to an estimate from the National Association of Women in Construction.

The University of Toledo is working to help change that.

Amanda Keener, a construction engineering technology student at UToledo, discovered her future through her experiences on her second co-op rotation with the Douglas Co. in Holland.

And as part of Women in Construction Week March 6-12, the College of Engineering is using social media to shine a spotlight on its women construction engineering students like Amanda Keener.

It was through her experiences on her second co-op rotation with the Douglas Co. in Holland that Keener, a construction engineering technology student at UToledo, discovered her future.

“I hope my career path will be becoming a cost estimator,” said Keener, a senior from Dublin, Ohio. “During my first co-op at the Douglas Co., I was able to experience project management. On my second rotation, I switched over to preconstruction. I fell in love with estimating, using math and problem-solving skills to accurately estimate a project. I’d like to become a certified professional estimator.

Stephanie Hill, who also studies construction engineering technology at UToledo, has completed three co-ops, the last two in Seattle, where she worked on a heavy civil engineering construction project.

“My co-op in Seattle is when I fell in love with bridges,” Hill said. “I even secured a full-time position as a field engineer nine months before I graduated, and it’s with the company that I set my sights on during my freshman year.

“Nothing is better than having a full-time job lined up before you start your last semester, especially with an amazing company.”

“We are happy to join the nation in celebrating and supporting Women in Construction Week,” said Dr. Mike Toole, dean of the College of Engineering. “Our nation has made significant progress in our efforts to increase the number of women in the construction industry, but we still have far to go.

“More women are needed not only because of the serious skilled labor shortage in the industry but also because meeting construction project goals of cost, schedule, innovation and safety require diverse, high-performing teams that only benefit by including women.”

Dr. Lesley Berhan, associate dean for diversity, inclusion and community engagement and associate professor of mechanical, industrial and manufacturing engineering, said recognition is important, but leveling the percentages of men and women in the industry is the goal.

“Here in the College of Engineering, women make up 22% of the undergraduate student population. The percentage of female undergraduate students in civil engineering and construction engineering technology is 18.5% and 12.4%, respectively,” Berhan said. “So as we recognize the work and achievements of women in the construction industry, we also continue to work toward increasing their numbers.”

Much of the work is through ensuring that students such as Rebecca Monnette, a civil engineering major, feel supported throughout their UToledo journey.

Katelyn Nadeau is one of many success stories coming from the Construction Engineering Technology program. She will complete her degree in spring 2023 and has already secured a full-time job.

“Being a woman in STEM comes with the anticipation of obstacles related to gender; however, the advisors at UToledo have been the most encouraging part of my pursuit of an engineering degree,” Monnette said. “Without the assistance and recommendations of both my co-op and academic advisors, finding my footing with my first experience in the field would have been 10 times more difficult.”

Bryan Bosch, manager of engineering diversity, inclusion and community engagement, said there are continuing efforts locally and nationally to make the population within engineering, and specifically, the construction industry, more representative of the U.S. population.

“Our corporate partners within the construction industry support our programs and initiatives to educate more young women about their options within engineering and help to motivate them to become the next generation of construction professionals building our new physical, transportation and energy infrastructure,” he said.

And that work is paying off.

Katelyn Nadeau is one of many success stories coming from the Construction Engineering Technology program. Even as Nadeau works to complete her degree in spring 2023, she has already secured a full-time job with the same company where she is currently on co-op, Johnson Controls Inc.

“As a freshman, it was quickly apparent that my major’s population consisted of mostly males,” Nadeau said. “During the past three years in this program, I’ve only met a handful of female peers and professors, but while we were always outnumbered, it was a wonderful feeling to be included in the type of education that would normally be seen as something only men would do.

“I feel empowered at school and in my workplace because I’m proving that I can do the job.”

Her advice to younger women considering the construction industry for their careers is to “take the leap.”

“There are so many different paths to take within this industry and so many options if you don’t think one specific thing is right for you,” Nadeau said. “While it is currently a mostly male-dominated career, don’t be afraid to reach out to your female classmates, teachers and advisors. There are people in place to help you succeed on this route.”

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