Women in Construction: Diversity is Key to our Industry’s Path Forward

Women offer up unique and different angles to construction leadership no matter how much experience they have. Our perspectives give us license to approach issues and problem-solve differently, delivering new and often improved outcomes that impact our business. This is exciting and crucial for the industry! 

I recently hosted Compass Datacenters’ construction managers Amanda Brown and Meghan Thomas on the Extending the Ladder podcast to talk about their experiences in construction management. These powerful women represent the future of our company and the industry. Check out their career insights, their take on communication, the value of mentorship, and more.  

Nancy: Neither of you had significant construction credentials when you were hired. What transferable skills did you bring to the table, and how do those skills help you today?  

Meghan: I started at Compass right out of college with a Civil Engineering degree. Something not everyone thinks about when it comes to construction management is how much communication is required. That’s an area where I can really add value. I’m not too proud to ask questions and gather information from a variety of sources before carving a path forward, and that’s something Compass places a high value on. And we have diverse teams so each of us brings something different to the table when it comes to problem solving. We are better when we work together. 

Amanda: I worked in customer service through high school and college and as a sales associate early in my career. My experience working with different people and personalities, actively listening, being patient and collaborating were skills required for this job. I’ve worked to build trust with people and earn their respect, so I am better able to get the information I need for the team to be successful. It is important to forge good partnerships to support our growth. 

Nancy: Having a construction management team that’s majority female has challenged conventional thinking and given Compass a competitive edge. How do you think you’re impacting and improving project delivery?  

Amanda: I’m often the only female in the room. I just tend to listen more and really gather all the inputs, which helps inform good decisions. I also believe women bring a calming perspective to the worksite that is really important in a fast-paced build. 

Meghan: I think females are innovative problem solvers. We’re just bringing a fresh perspective, compared to male counterparts who’ve been in the construction industry for years or decades. I sometimes observe men tackling problems head-on, relying on instincts. Women tend to take a more holistic, measured approach to creating solutions.  

Nancy: How have you overcome the challenge of being a woman in a field typically dominated by men? 

Meghan: I’ve learned to be confident and advocate for myself, but also humble enough to know I don’t know everything. That realization made me more confident in my role. I’ve learned it’s okay to lean on resources and mentors, especially other women.  

Amanda: I worked hard at learning the business when I came in the door. I want to be a knowledgeable, reliable team player. I’ve noticed that when you collaborate to impact the project, you can motivate teams with your knowledge. 

Nancy: Why do you think it’s important for women in construction to have mentors – and who has helped guide your career here?  

Meghan: Compass Delivery Manager Cat (Catherine) Choppin had a huge influence on my construction career. Cat and Amanda guided me and taught me what was important. They made the transition much smoother.  

Amanda: I’m in full agreement with Cat’s mentorship. She pushed me to have a voice and hold others accountable. She has an incredible work ethic. She came into the business when she was the only woman in the room and worked hard to earn respect and success. 

Nancy: What advice would you give a woman who may be considering a job in construction?  

Amanda: Don’t discount yourself if you don’t check all the boxes on credentials. See the potential. If you’re a quick learner, that can take you a long way. There are many opportunities for on-the-job learning. Give yourself time to learn. We’re all lifelong learners. 

Meghan: I would tell young women to embrace the challenge and go for it. Don’t limit yourself. Find good mentors who make the transition from college to professional life exponentially easier.  

Nancy: Last, what is it about Compass’ culture that has helped you fulfill your potential as a CM? 

Amanda: Our mantra of ‘humility in, pride out’ is big for me. I’ve learned here that people who have pride in their work love to share and teach others. Being able to educate others is confidence-building, too. I also know that there are always lessons learned in what we do. Failure can lead to success if you let it. I love that we work well together, problem-solve, and collaborate and our culture affects our general contractor and subs. Last, I’d add that our company prioritizes mental health for all of us.  

Meghan: Compass is a culture that fosters growth and empowers each team member. Everyone in our organization is always willing to assist regardless of questions they may be asked. Our ideal of “ask first” is collaborative because no one feels hesitant to seek guidance. Growth is a journey. 

At Compass, we believe in advocating for women, seeing potential and mentorship for on-the-job development. Compass’ female construction management team has helped us challenge conventional thinking and create new systems and processes that give our company a competitive edge. Others in the construction industry can benefit from intentionality around bringing more female voices to the leadership table. Not only is it crucial to the way we do business; diversity makes the industry stronger and better. 

Nancy Novak

Chief Innovation Officer, Compass Datacenters