Wonder Women: Paving the Way for Female Construction Workers

Women make up just 10 percent of the construction industry’s workforce. But there’s nothing average about CMSWillowbrook. At our firm, women comprise more than 18 percent of our employees – almost double the national average.

For decades, women in our company have donned hard hats to build value for our clients by performing pioneering work in a predominantly male industry. I remember visiting projects as a child with my father, CMSWillowbrook CEO Cary DeHart, when there were far less women on job sites. However, he always had several women on his team, many of whom became my mentors.

 
Summer DeHart in her dad’s office.

Summer DeHart in her dad’s office.

 

Jan Dunkin, executive vice president of client services, started at CMSWillowbrook almost 25 years ago and has been a trailblazer. She is a nationally Certified Construction Manager (CCM) through the Construction Management Association of America. Female CCMs make up less than 7 percent of all construction managers in the country today.

Jan’s dedication to construction management (CM) and innovative approaches helped CMSWillowbrook grow from a small, local firm to a large, statewide company with three offices and annual revenues topping $130 million. The Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Oklahoma recognized her accomplishments in 2017 with the prestigious Builder of the Year award, making her only the second woman to receive the honor.

Jan Dunkin accepting the AGC Builder of the Year award in 2018.

Jan Dunkin accepting the AGC Builder of the Year award in 2018.

Jan Dunkin and Cary DeHart.

Jan Dunkin and Cary DeHart.

More women are entering the construction industry every day. They see the opportunities CM can provide, thanks to the women who came before them.

Women such as Vice President of Pre-Construction Services Cristy Callins. She has been a vital asset to our team for over 19 years. Cristy has always been a role model to her colleagues, and now she is helping the next generation of women in construction.

Cristy mentors female high school students through the GirlTECH program at the Metro Technology Center in Oklahoma City. GirlTECH equips students with the skills needed to pursue careers commonly held by men, such as CM and other high-skill occupations. The personal relationships allow the girls to learn from their mentors’ experience, discuss career options and work through any challenges they may be facing. 

Cristy’s reach extends into the college and university level. She represents CMSWillowbrook at career fairs around the state, seeking new talent and educating students on the opportunities for growth and success CM offers.

Cristy Callins at the 2019 AIA Oklahoma Conference.

Cristy Callins at the 2019 AIA Oklahoma Conference.

Cristy Callins with another mentor from the GirlTech program.

Cristy Callins with another mentor from the GirlTech program.

In fact, Cristy recruited Project Manager Heather Rouba at a University of Oklahoma (OU) career fair.

Heather hadn’t considered working in CM until she met with an OU graduate liaison and took a huge leap of faith into an unfamiliar world. She joined CMSWillowbrook in 2018 while working on her master’s degree in structural management at the OU.

Heather believes hearing success stories from other women and learning what the industry can offer will lead to more female construction professionals. That is why she also mentors through the GirlTECH program and serves on the AGC Workforce Development Committee.

CMSWillowbrook will continue to promote diversity in our workforce and groom future CM leaders. We look forward to the day when there are even more women working in our industry, and we are fully committed to leading the charge.

Summer DeHart McClure is the corporate secretary and treasurer at CMSWillowbrook

Larisha Hunter