Women breaking workplace barriers

Presence in construction rises by 20% in 5 years, and prospects still good


Tanya Corbin has worked at Hanscomb Inc. in Dallas for six years. She has risen through the ranks from administrative assistant to business manager of development for the Atlanta-based construction consultant.

"I've had to work a lot harder and be persistent, but you can move up in this industry," Corbin said.

From 1995 to 2000, the number of women in construction nationally rose 20 percent, from 762,000 to 913,000, according to the National Association of Women in Construction.

Women made up about 10 percent of total construction workers in 2000. Nearly half of those were employed in sales, administrative and technical support.

The construction field might need women more than ever before in coming years. By 2008, the number of new workers required in construction is estimated to be 60,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"We're optimistic about women's possibilities in the field simply because there's a huge labor shortage looming in construction," said Glenda Thompson, director of public relations of the National Association of Women in Construction.

"We are paying a lot of attention to and actively looking for women in the work force," said Duane Roggow, vice president of human resources at Hanscomb.

The company receives an average of 20 to 30 resumes for a position, two or three of them from women.

Many hired have done well. Hanscomb has 15 vice presidents, three of whom are women. Two of those were promoted in the past year.

"What typically happens in male-dominated organizations is men in power have a difficult time giving control up because they rose to the top by doing everything and being responsible for everything," Roggow said.

"We try to show them through examples in the company that they can give up some responsibility, and they can give some responsibility to women, and still achieve.

"The culture is changing, but it's still an old boys' club," he said.

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