Utopia recently conducted a Q&A with women in the construction industry. From product and safety managers, to engineering directors, these women climbed the ranks and made a name for themselves in their respective companies.
Jordan Crouse, senior project manager at Lendlease, is one such woman.
Here's her story on industry passion, pains, and shifting perspectives for women in construction.
Q&A WITH Jordan Crouse
Could you tell me a bit about your market, company, and what you do?
I’ve been in the construction industry for more than 16 years and spent the last 10 of those with Lendlease’s New York construction group. Since joining Lendlease in 2012, I’ve had the opportunity to manage a number of signature, large-scale construction projects in New York City, including 400 Park Avenue South, which is a 42-story residential tower sitting atop a tiny 20,000-square-foot site and a subway stop; 56 Leonard, an award-winning 56-story structure that has been dubbed the “Jenga” building; 277 Fifth, which was Lendlease’s first condominium development in New York City; and the project I’m currently working on, Google’s new corporate headquarters in Manhattan, which entails the core and shell renovation of an eight-story, 329,000-square-foot building originally constructed in 1905.
As a senior project manager, I’m responsible for the daily management, supervision, coordination and successful completion of projects. That includes evaluating project process during preconstruction, construction and closeout, overseeing the financial aspects of the jobs, managing our internal team, and interfacing with our clients and other project team members. I also have a passion for sustainability. I am LEED AP BD+C accredited and enjoy the challenge of putting my green building skills to work for our clients.
What sparked your initial interest in the industry?
I’ve always been curious about the “how” and “why” of things, including the built environment, and that fueled my initial interest in construction. I loved the idea of getting out into the field and experiencing for myself how something was physically built. I have a degree in engineering, but as I learned more and more about the differences between engineering and construction I was drawn there instead.
With construction, I like the action of getting out on the job site and seeing the different elements of a project coming together, rather than being in an office at a computer.
What do you love most about your job/career?
One aspect I love about construction is the satisfaction of getting to physically see your hard work come to fruition. And since every project brings a different set of challenges and interesting design features to execute, there are always opportunities to learn something new.
I also appreciate the collaboration my job entails, whether it’s working with the project team at my own company, the client, or the various outside designers, consultants, expeditors, and other professionals who are involved on any given project. It brings so many opportunities to connect with new people and continue to grow professionally.
What has been the biggest barrier you've faced in your field?
I’ve had situations where people outside of my own company don’t take me as seriously simply because I’m a woman. As a woman in a male-dominated field, you sometimes have to work harder to earn people’s respect.
What are some common challenges that women in this industry (and perhaps the workforce as a whole) face?
One challenge for our industry overall—not just women—is that there is sometimes a divide between superintendents in the field and the project managers overseeing the job. It stems from these jobs requiring different skill sets, which are both equally important to a project’s success but are not always fully understood by the other side.
The solution to this is something that can also go a long way in helping women forge their career path in this industry: intentionally ignore any divides that exist, spend time getting to know the people involved on a job and understanding what their roles entail, make an effort to build relationships and show real appreciation for what others bring to a project.
What are your opinions and thoughts on women in the construction industry?
Being a woman in this business is not a negative trait, but rather a positive. I’ve been fortunate to work with many men and women who not only understand and embrace that fact, but also go out of their way to encourage and mentor young professionals entering the field. As that happens more and more, we’ll not only see more women succeeding as leaders in this industry, but also a shift in the perception of construction as a predominantly men’s field.
What do you think are the reasons women either don't want to work in the industry, won't get hired, or don't retain positions?
One reason women might not be drawn to construction is there’s a lack of awareness of the variety of different careers in this industry. When I say I work in construction, many people assume I’m out swinging a hammer on a job site. There’s a lot to be learned about what we do as construction professionals and the opportunities this field offers.
Have you noticed a specific public perception of women working in your field? Has it changed over the years?
The main change I’ve noticed is that the number of women working in construction has drastically increased during my 16 years in the industry—which is really great to see.
What solutions do we have to solve these problems?
One of the most positive things we can do is continue to highlight and celebrate the many successes of women in this field and make our contributions more visible to those who may be considering a career in construction. It’s also important for anyone experiencing gender bias to speak up. Talk to your manager or seek out a peer who can listen to your concerns and help guide you through difficulties based on their own experiences.
Do you know of any good resources for women and businesses to go to in order to circumnavigate these challenges?
I know from personal experience how crucial it is, as a woman in construction, to have support from your employer and your direct supervisors during the early stages of your career. As important as it is to encourage more women to enter this field, it’s equally essential that we provide the support, training and development that will help keep them in the industry. I was fortunate to have several people who served as mentors to me and gave me tremendous confidence in my career path, but there are formal programs women can seek out too—either through the industry or their employer.
For example, Lendlease offers a program called Cornerstone for recent college graduates during their first two years with the company. It’s a structured program the helps young employees develop professional skills, technical skills and a thorough understanding of the business. Cornerstone is open to both men and women alike, but this is the type of opportunity that women in the field should be seeking out and taking advantage of as a way to overcome some of the obstacles we can face working in a male-dominated field.
It's also really important for people to create their own group of peers, even across other companies in the industry. Having others to connect with who are at a similar age and stage in their career—and can relate directly to your experiences—provides tremendous support that we all need as we navigate different challenges and issues.