I am currently reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. She says she wrote this book, not out of extreme unhappiness, but in an effort to identify ways to improve her already-quite-happy life; I have decided to read her book and choose some of her principles to apply to my life as well. While I have found the reading interesting, the most poignant phrase thus far has been:
"...both men and women find relationships with women to be more intimate and enjoyable than those with men. Women have more feelings of empathy for other people than men do...In fact, for both men and women--and this finding struck me as highly significant--the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women."
Now, I do not intend to make this an uber-feminist blog or blog posting, but I have found this statement to be incredibly true in my life. One of the most unsatisfying parts of many of my days has been a lack of interaction with females. The construction industry is making a number of attempts to recruit women, but there's no argument that it is still largely a boys' club. One of my lifelines has been the few (but growing) industry relationships that I have been fortunate to find. Some of these women might even be surprised to know that they've made an impact, since we've had infrequent contact. But the simple knowledge that they are out there, or a brief conversation at a larger meeting, is enough interaction to boost my perspective.
1. Various EEO Officers. I have said on more than one occasion that when I walk into a room at an industry event, I do a mental tally of women in the room. I have never found more than half a dozen in one place--until my first EEO officer training session. It was there that I FOUND THE WOMEN! Apparently, construction firms have decided that their EEO officers should be minorities, and women fit the bill. This is quite empowering to me, since these people (myself included) are tasked with ensuring that opportunities are afforded to anyone qualified for a position--regardless of race or gender. Finding women at this seminar was awesome!
2. Christie Barbee, Carolina Asphalt Pavement Association. Christie has the job that I thought I wanted when I graduated from college--she lobbies on the state level in North Carolina and runs CAPA. She is an incredibly accomplished woman and has interacted with more than her fair share of men in the construction industry for a number of years. Her approach to running meetings, being light-hearted but professional at the same time, and speaking up for her cause has been a wonderful source of inspiration to me. It has also taught me that sometimes I should be glad that I didn't get what I wanted--wearing blue jeans a few days a week to work really is very nice.
3. Blair Williamson, S.L. Williamson Co. Blair is the president of her family's highway construction company, and has been involved in her family's business for two decades. She has been a fixture at the Old Dominion Highway Contractor's Association for as long as I can remember and is well-respected in the industry--not as a successful woman, but as a successful business-person. She has always held her own at any table of construction industry execs--and is often asked her opinion, which is one of the highest compliments that can be given.
4. Paula Grant Shuford, Herman Grant Co. Inc. Paula has been a new source of inspiration to me via technology. As the owner of her family's asphalt plant parts and equipment company, she has also been in the minority when it comes to her gender and her profession. As a fellow Girls Preparatory School alumna, and a friend of my parents, Paula and I have connected via Facebook. It is wonderful to have one of my posts validated by a simple "like" button, or a comment along the lines of "so true!" Simply knowing that someone else has similar thoughts or interactions (such as being accused of "only being the receptionist who obviously can't make a decision" by a telemarketer) goes a long way to keeping me inspired during the day.
5. May Roark, Maymead, Inc. My grandmother is one of the most respected individuals in our company. At 81 years old, she commands the respect, fear and prompt response of over 200 men daily. She rocks.
6. Mary Katherine Wright Salyer, Wright Brothers Construction Co. Inc. Mary and I have very literally grown up together--from summer jobs at our companies, to our first full-time positions, we have commiserated and celebrated every minor milestone or aired each tiny gripe. We will grow old together in the midst of all of these men.
These women have made a difference to my professional and personal life with their simple presence, kind words, and trail blazing. They have helped to make high heels a more common sight in the construction board room, and I thank them for that.