Left to right: Beth Barton, Chelsea Borders, Taylor Patton, Danielle Emert and Kara Lewandowski comprise the McCarthy all-woman project team known as Women Building BJC.

St. Louis Construction Women Increasing in Numbers, Responsibilities

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

As the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) prepares to celebrate Women in Construction Week March 6-12, local NAWIC chapters and their members are also championing the women who work in their offices and on their jobsites every day.

This year’s Women in Construction Week theme is Envision Equity.

“WIC Week gives chapters nationwide the opportunity to shine a bright light on the construction industry and women’s very important place in it,” said National NAWIC Executive Director Crissy Ingram. “There has long been a culture of construction that is only for men. If we can get the women who have worked past that barrier out of the shadows and into the spotlight, they can show other women – no matter their age or background – that there are countless opportunities for them in the industry.”

National NAWIC President Doreen Bartoldus agrees. “WIC Week brings awareness to the great success women are achieving in every aspect of the industry,” she said. “It will also hopefully influence the next generation to join our ranks after seeing construction can be a great career for women.”

McCarthy Building Companies is an active NAWIC St. Louis Chapter #38 member. The local chapter formed in 1960, seven years after 16 women working in construction founded the national NAWIC.

Perhaps McCarthy’s best example of its advocacy for women in construction is its all-woman project team of five that is working on the design-build of Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s 16-story tower on South Kingshighway Boulevard. The new inpatient tower is a major component of BJC’s Campus Renewal, a long-term vision to transform the Washington University Medical Campus.

What stands out most about this team of women, say McCarthy executives, is the diversity of their roles and responsibilities: project administrator, project engineer, virtual design and construction manager, carpenter foreman and office manager. The team has formed its own project-specific group known as Women Building BJC.

Although S. M. Wilson & Co. doesn’t currently have an all-woman project team, the firm is a strong advocate for employing women in all facets of construction. President Amy Berg says the contractor was recognized by the Women’s Foundation of Greater St. Louis (in 2021) as one of 21 St. Louis employers demonstrating excellence in four areas of workplace gender equity: leadership, compensation, flexible work policies, and recruitment and retention.

S. M. Wilson initiated Wilson Women three years ago as a way to support women working in the field, in the office and remotely.

“Being a woman in an industry predominantly and historically pursued by men does not have to be the incredible struggle it was decades ago,” Berg said. “Fortunately, women have pioneered their way into most construction-related careers. I’m proud to serve as president of a company committed to an inclusive work environment and a place where females can thrive.” Twenty-seven percent of the firm’s employees and 18 percent of its leadership are female.

In 2019, S. M. Wilson launched Wilson Women as a means of bringing together female employees for relationship building, community service, mentorship, networking and learning opportunities.

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