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Five Powerful Women in Construction

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March 31, 2022

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    According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 10.3% of the total workforce in the construction industry. While this is a significant figure, it indicates that many more women could be employed in construction if they had access to the same resources as their male colleagues. Women are a vital force in the construction industry, but historically they have been underrepresented. Still, many women have managed to make an impact in the industry.

    This article will feature five women who made their mark in the construction industry.

    Julia Morgan

    Julia Morgan was a famous and essential architect who, in the late 19th century, broke barriers for women in architecture. She was a successful architect and a pioneer of women architects worldwide. Morgan was born on July 16, 1872, in California. She attended the University of California at Berkeley and graduated with a degree in architecture. In 1900, she became the first woman to pass the rigorous three-year architectural exam at Paris’s prestigious École des Beaux-Arts.

    Upon her return to California, she opened an office in San Francisco. Many of her projects were commissions from women who wanted their homes to reflect their taste and style. She designed the interiors of many of the first women’s clubs in California, including the Alumnae Club at Mills College and the Women’s University Club in San Francisco. She also designed the interiors of several houses for her friends, including the David Starr Jordan House in Palo Alto, California.

    Julia Morgan was a member of the San Francisco Women’s Building Committee and served as president of the San Francisco Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. She was also active in civic affairs, serving as a San Francisco Art Commission member and the California State Parks Commission.

    In 1927, she was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from District 4, which included Chinatown and part of North Beach. She served on the Board of Supervisors until 1930.

    Nora Stanton Barney

    Nora Stanton Barney was one of the directing forces behind Stanton Homes. On March 30, 1954, she was born in New York City. She was raised by her parents, Michael and Eileen Stanton, and her older brother, John. Nora attended school in New York City and graduated from Fordham University with a degree in English Literature.

    With over 35 years of experience in the construction industry, Nora was a beacon of leadership and inspiration to those around her. She began her career as an interior designer but quickly realized that she was more interested in the construction process’s general design and build aspect.

    As Nora’s career progressed, she fell into the role of project manager and then to the president. As President, Nora continued to inspire and motivate people around her and provide a substantial leadership level for Stanton Homes.

    Nora was a member of the Home Builders Association of Greater Portland and served on the Board of Directors for many years. She also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, was a past President of the Greater Portland Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, and served on the Board of Directors for the Oregon Food Bank.

    Emily Roebling

    Emily Roebling was a bridge engineer and the first woman to be given a license by the American Society of Civil Engineers. She was the only female engineer in the US when she completed her studies at Cornell University.

    Emily was married to Washington Roebling, the chief engineer in charge of building the Brooklyn Bridge. He hired Emily to assist with clerical and administrative tasks, but she quickly became indispensable to the project. Emily’s husband died six years before the bridge was completed, but she carried on his work until the project’s completion.

    Even though she didn’t finish the bridge herself, her work and experience contributed immensely to its completion. However, she wasn’t recognized for her contribution until many years later.

    She proved herself to be an excellent engineer and even went on to assist with the Manhattan Bridge project and several others.

    Cheryl McKissack Daniel

    Cheryl McKissack comes from a long line of builders dating back to the earliest days of America. The first descendant of her family, Moses, came to America as a slave and learned the trade of making bricks. His grandsons, Moses III and Calvin incorporated their company McKissack & Mckissack in 1905.

    Cheryl McKissack Daniel was born, along with her twin sister Deryl, on May 15, 1961, in Nashville, Tennessee.

    Cheryl graduated from Peabody Demonstration School in 1979, going on to earn her B.S. and M.S. in civil engineering from Howard University. After graduating from Howard in 1983, McKissack Daniel went on to work for the U.S. Department of defense, New York-based construction firms Weidlinger Associates and Turner Construction.

    Cheryl ultimately became president of her family’s construction firm McKissack & McKissack, making it the United States’ oldest woman/minority-owned professional design and construction firm.

    Maya Lin

    Maya Ying Lin is an American designer and artist who is best known for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. She was born on October 5, 1959, in Athens, Ohio. She studied architecture at Yale University and graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1981.

    As an undergraduate, she submitted her design proposal to a public competition aiming to find a memorial design for Vietnam war veterans. Lin’s design was selected out of 1,422 submissions. The memorial’s design was controversial because of Lin’s minimalist approach, lack of professional experience, age, and Asian ethnicity. Lin commented that if the competition had not been blind, her design would have never won. Through the baseless scrutiny, Lin went on to open Maya Lin studio in New York City. She has since had a hand in numerous design projects.

    Final Thoughts

    Construction is a booming industry that’s projected to grow in the coming years. As women continue to make strides in male-dominated industries, it’s important to recognize how much women can benefit from a career in construction and how the world can benefit when women demand space in the industry.

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