Women in Construction touched down for the first time in the U.S. this week, right here in San Francisco, after captivating London last year. The sold-out event at the Hyatt Regency was buzzing for two days with the future-shapers of construction who are shattering the notion that the industry is a man’s world. In fact, the powerful lineup of speakers proved that construction is now everyone’s world.

From motivational leaders sharing how they’ve created an inclusive workspace to workshops on leveraging tech the wise way, it was nearly impossible to choose which sessions to hit. Here’s a rundown of some invaluable takeaways from this year’s Women in Construction conference.

1. Inclusion starts from the top

Katie Coulson (VP of Skanska) has worked tirelessly to promote inclusivity, recently reaching a landmark 40% diversity at her company. One of her proudest moments as a leader was when she overheard a male colleague remark, “It’s so strange to work in such an inclusive, non-judgmental environment.”

Katie has chosen to make diversity and inclusion a cultural norm at Skanska. That said, there’s no secret sauce to achieving inclusivity and diversity: it takes understanding and work. She suggested a few key actions organizations can take to cultivate a culture of inclusion:

  • Do what you do because you want to do it — not because it’s prescribed to you based on social constructs.
  • Don’t leave anyone out.
  • Cultivate a culture where people can be their authentic selves.
  • Treat people the way they want to be treated.

2. Lean into technology and innovation your way

Autodesk’s own Allison Scott (Head of Thought Leadership and Customer Marketing) and Sellen Construction’s Jenny Moshea (Head of Technology) sparked rich conversation in their interactive workshop about construction technology.

Jenny mapped out how the use of smart, interconnected technology works at Sellen Construction, unpacking how her team makes intentional tech choices. Many of their go-to tools come from Autodesk’s offerings, like TradeTapp, BuildingConnected, BIM360, Assemble, and Revit.

Allison broke down how the rapid growth of construction tech can be overwhelming with the endless sea of options to choose from. Though it’s easy to fall into the trap of blindly chasing the next shiny object, it’s still possible to adopt tech at a pace and scale that makes sense for your company. All it takes is a little self-reflection and some guidance from the Innovation Spectrum (Harvard Business Review), a handy way to help you decide where to best allocate your resources.

3. The picture-perfect role model isn’t a unicorn

The first thing that Catrina Alexandre (founder of Beyond the Looking Glass) said as she grabbed the mic was, “This is not going to be a boring Powerpoint presentation.” Catrina is anything but boring: her first construction project was working to preserve Alcatraz, and now, she has her own organization where she matches young women interested in construction with mentors.

Catrina got everyone head-nodding when she said, “There would be more women in construction if they had access to more female role models.” Most attendees resonated with the experience of being the only woman in the room and craved connection and mentorship with other women in the construction world.

She pushed attendees to share their experiences with positive role models, making everyone feel understood and connected. To hit it home, they were challenged to see themselves as role models — and pass it on. Catrina deeply believes in the power of connecting and the power of social media, so check her out on Instagram @blackwomeninconstruction.

Wrap-up

We had a blast attending WICUSA, hosting the speaker dinner on Tuesday evening, and getting to know so many incredible women impacting the construction industry. A serious shout-out and thank you to Maddox Events in the UK for making WICUSA happen — it was truly an empowering and unforgettable event!

Female leaders share what it's like being a woman in construction. Check it out.