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Celebrating Women in Construction Week with Mortenson Construction

Women in Construction Week is an annual celebration that supports and encourages women in the construction industry. To bring attention to this special week, a team from Mortenson Construction visited the newest Page Street house build site on March 14th to work with the young women in GAP School's construction career pathway. With its headquarters in Minneapolis, Mortenson is a nationally ranked builder, developer, and provider of energy and engineering services. 

Through GAP School’s YouthBuild construction career pathway, participants build and renovate housing for low-income families in the community while gaining experience in a wide variety of construction skills such as carpentry, electrical, framing, insulation, painting, reading blueprints, and environmentally-sustainable construction practices. The program consists of an average of 30 hours per week, with approximately 15 hours spent in classroom education, 12 hours in on-site workplace skills training, and 3 hours in leadership/community service. 

The construction pathway at GAP School has a total of 34 students, with just 6 being women. This ratio of men to women is common in the construction industry, lending to the importance of these young women being able to interact with and learn from other women who have a successful career in the construction. 

One student, Claudia Sifa, who started at GAP School just 5 months ago, immigrated to the United States from Africa. Claudia was interested in this program because, she says, “It is a cool way to try new things. It’s good to give everything a try once.” Claudia would like to go to college and use this experience from the construction pathway program as a starting point to learn more about her interests and passions. 

Estimator for Mortenson, Macy Lee, whose cousin attended GAP School a number of years ago, reached out to GAP School initially. For Macy, the importance of reaching out to organizations like GAP School lay in nurturing young talent and fostering community connections within the construction industry. 

As the Mortenson team engaged with the students, conversations surrounded early interests in math and architecture to the diverse career pathways available within construction. Nicole Hogenson and Terese Ragaller, both Project Managers at Mortenson, openly shared their experiences in a male-dominated field. From initial skepticism on job sites to subtle biases encountered in professional settings, they highlighted the resilience needed to navigate such challenges. 

The women also reflected on the evolution of workplace dynamics, noting the gradual shift towards inclusivity and respect. Nicole described instances of overcompensation by male colleagues, calling attention to the need for mutual respect in fostering a supportive work environment. 

Bibiana Perdomo, Project Engineer for Mortenson, echoed her colleagues' thoughts, urging students to embrace the wide range of opportunities within the construction field. Her journey from civil engineering to construction management is an example of the versatility and growth potential within the industry.  

While the discussion centered around challenges faced as women in construction, there was also a great focus on the progress already being made in the industry. The Mortenson team emphasized the gradual shift towards inclusivity and respect in the workplace, reminding female students to seize opportunities and explore their passions, especially within the unique Construction Pathway opportunity at GAP School. Thank you to the entire Mortenson team, for taking time from your schedules to work with GAP School students and show them what women in construction truly look like. 

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