Women in Construction Management event spotlights advantages of women, minorities in construction industry

Luciana Debs (right), assistant professor of construction management technology, leads the Women in Construction Management student organization in a discussion about precast construction.

In November, the Women in Construction Management student organization hosted a panel discussion and equipment demonstration that was attended by sophomore, junior and senior students in construction management technology. The event was sponsored by Kiewit Construction, Engineering and Mining Services, headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.

At the event, construction management technology students learned about precast construction methods and materials from Luciana Debs, assistant professor of construction management technology. Precasting involves pouring concrete into reusable wooden or steel molds that shape the concrete into uniform structural elements, such as walls, stairs and support columns. The concrete cures in controlled environments, away from inclement weather. The finished pieces are then transported to construction sites, where cranes lift them into place.

Lily Whited

Lily Whited, senior in construction management technology and president of Women in Construction Management, enjoys the hands-on nature of the construction management curriculum.

“The way that we learn is very inclusive of all the different roles in construction, which makes it helpful, no matter what job you’re going for in construction,” said Whited. “It enables you to have a knowledge base of everyone who is working with you and helps you understand the broad spectrum of what it takes to build a building in the industry.”

Whited said the construction industry holds plenty of opportunities, especially for people from diverse backgrounds.

“There’s lots of different kinds of positions within construction and it takes a lot of knowledge and understanding of the building processes,” Whited said. “It’s predominantly a male industry but I think that women bring it new ideas. Women tend to have more organizational skills and different ways of thinking. It’s good to have variety in the way of thinking because it helps bring new ideas in construction processes. So having diversity – whether that’s women or people of color or different backgrounds – helps the industry grow.”

Students in construction management technology participate in a Women in Construction Management event.

Whited appreciated the real-world aspect that the event’s sponsor brought.

“Kiewit has a women’s program, and they came here today to help us recruit and open more discussions about what it means to be a woman in the construction industry,” Whited said. “It’s helpful for us to meet these women and discuss what we can do to further our careers as women in construction. I think Kiewit understands that and they’re hoping to help us grow. Change begins with every younger generation that joins the industry, so if they can help us understand what it means in college, then by the time we get to the industry, we can help implement those changes where we need to.”

Whited’s goals include managing the construction of large-scale projects.

“I want to be a superintendent” said Whited. “I’m hopefully going to work on larger, more complex projects, such as data centers, hotels, casinos. I would like to work in the field and be a superintendent or senior superintendent and own a portion of the company.”

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