Yes, She Can
The notion that construction is a man’s world is fading, thanks in no small part to programs like the ABC Greater Michigan chapter’s recent “Build Like a Girl” event. More than 150 local girls gathered in Midland, Michigan’s Great Hall on Feb. 28 for an evening of networking, mentoring and hands-on construction trade activities.
ABC Greater Michigan, together with the Greater Michigan Construction Academy, drew on their experience working with Mittie Cannon, founder of Power UP—whose mission is to educate young female talent on construction-career pathways—to develop a framework for the event, with the goal of introducing girls in grades five through 12 to career opportunities in construction. “We couldn’t believe how successful the event was this year,” says Cathy Geiger, marketing and community affairs director for ABC Greater Michigan. “The media picked it up, which was really helpful in getting the word out.”
“Build Like a Girl” opened with a confidence workshop put on by Midland, Michigan–based nonprofit Self Love Beauty, which is dedicated to promoting the confidence needed to build social and emotional skills vital to positive development in individuals. “We really felt the workshop would be helpful for everybody [even the parents],” Geiger says. “No matter if you’re a child, adult, man, woman—but especially for women in the [construction] field—learning to become more confident is critical to success.”
Following the workshop, attendees participated in a panel discussion featuring four women who shared how and why they got into construction and then took questions from attendees on how they could move into the industry if they decided to pursue that path. The panel was moderated by local news anchor Meg McLeod, who also promoted “Build Like a Girl” on her social channels beforehand—something Geiger believes helped the event “really blow up.”
Then the real fun began. The girls headed to the show floor for live demonstrations and hands-on construction activities. They played tic-tac-toe in fresh cement, troweling it smooth again after each game. A plumbing contractor showed them how to heat and bend PVC, turning it into hula hoops, while another exhibitor had scaffolding set up in the hall for the girls to get harnessed in and climb up. “They were having so much fun,” Geiger says. “I looked at them and I was like, ‘I want to do that!’ The committee had smiles on our faces the entire night because we couldn’t believe the turnout. The engagement of the girls with the hands-on activities was awesome.”
A post-event survey showed that 87% of attendees felt more familiar with the job opportunities available in construction following “Build Like a Girl.” “That in itself was a huge step in the right direction of what we were hoping to do,” Geiger says, “so we were super proud of that.”
But the “best compliment,” Geiger says, came from attendee Susan Bennett, who now feels more confident about pursuing a career in construction. Bennett, who has considered construction to follow in her father’s footsteps, said the event helped changed perceptions she had about the industry.
“Jobs I have been interested in, it feels like you can only make money doing it by being a man or you are only going to be respected doing it by being a man,” Bennett said. “But [as a woman] you can do it the same.”
Maggie handles Construction Executive’s production, scheduling and digital assets, in addition to editing our print content and writing feature articles, industry new briefs and a variety of topical columns. She’s a native Marylander and a graduate of Salisbury University, with a background working on the marketing team for a large general contractor.