Oct. 20, 2021 - Start Addressing the Lack of Role Models

I’m a Woman in Construction – 4 Simple Ways to Start Addressing the Lack of Role Models

In a previous article, I stated the lack of role models as one of the reasons there were so few women entering, and then staying, in the construction industry – and I assume this is the same for any other minority groups. Yet, there are already many diverse people involved throughout the whole construction industry.

So, how do we “promote” ourselves as “role models”, or at least as some “examples” of what we, women and other minority groups, have already achieved to the younger generations?

Yes, I know, it’s not easy to put ourselves forward. None of us is perfect. Many of us think there is so much more we could have achieved, that we’ve made mistakes, that we’re really nothing like “role models”... I certainly do. Yet, when I really think about why I decided to enter the construction industry, to try different skills, to move around… I get back to “role models” and “examples” of people, real and fictitious, who showed me that non-traditional paths were possible, who gave me ideas…

So, in the last few years, I’ve been looking at ways I could share my experience with others and, hopefully, help others open their mind to new paths, or create their own:

1.   Mentoring:

If you search for a definition of “mentoring”, you’ll likely find quite a few… and some of them may even contradict others… The Cambridge Dictionary defines “mentoring” as “the act or process of helping and giving advice to a younger or less experienced person, especially in a job or at school”.

Mentoring takes many forms, from a formal set-up at work, such as being mentored by a more senior person in the same company, to a very informal set-up, such as chats over coffee between 2 people with similar interests but different levels of experiences. In-between these 2 extreme set-ups, there are many other structures of mentoring, including many provided by professional and networking associations. As experienced professionals, we can become mentors in any of these settings, depending on availability, opportunities, and what suits us better.

My personal experience has been to develop informal mentoring relationships with younger professionals met at networking events. Obviously, this requires to have a “connection” with the other person, and this may take several “encounters” at different events before feeling comfortable in suggesting to “continue the conversation” over coffee or a meal… Like networking, it takes practice…

But there is also much to gain from a mentoring relationship with younger professionals: getting some insights in how they see the “older generations”, what matters to them (great if you have younger people in your team), new ideas, diversity of thoughts…


2.   Professional Associations:

I also found that participating, in one way or another, in events organized by professional associations is a great way to “show” younger professional what others have already achieved. Like mentoring, this can be done in different ways, again depending on availability, opportunities, and what suits us better:

  • Informal conversation while attending an event;
  • Participating in the preparation of an event;
  • Participating at the event, either as a speaker, presenter, or in any other capacity;
  • Being on Committees or Board of Directors.

And there probably are many more ways…

Yes, some of these options are more time and energy consuming than others… but they are also great ways of learning to put ourselves “out there” more, of figuring out who we are most and least comfortable with (and why), of understanding our preferred level of involvement… And, like mentoring, we can gain a lot from this participation, in terms of networking, communication and presentation skills, even management and leadership skills...

3.   Writing about our Own Experience:

Another way of sharing our experience is to write about it. And again, there are many options available to us, from our company’s internal newsletter, professional association’s newsletters, self-publishing on LinkedIn or other social media, or even a professional publication or website…

Some of the advantage of having so many options available to us include:

  • Choosing the length of our writings, from a short post to a full length article;
  • Choosing the style, from writing as we speak to a more formal style;
  • Choosing the topic, from a one off experience to our whole story;
  • Getting used to put our views and experiences “out there”, starting with “safer” environments (for example with limited access, or where anonymous comments aren’t allowed);
  • Finding our style, between how we write, what we write about, and seeing how the audience is reacting;
  • And many more, I’m sure…

4.   Public Speaking:

The last option I’d like to share in this article is the often dreaded “public speaking” one…

First, “public speaking” doesn’t mean speaking in front of hundreds of people… a handful of people we know is a great way to start! And I found that speaking about a topic I know very well, such as my own work experience, makes the experience a lot more enjoyable and relaxed… as does being part of a panel rather than being the only one speaking!

Second, like writing, we can kick-start our public speaking on our own: putting ourselves forward at events at work or organized by professional associations, at the schools, colleges or universities we went to, on social media, when applying to a Board’s position… Or we can be contacted by someone in our network who has heard our story and sees value in sharing it with others, probably much more than we would…


In conclusion, let’s remember the “role models” who showed us that non-traditional paths were possible, who gave us ideas. Let’s follow their example and share what we’ve achieved, and how, with the younger generations.

Right now, my favorite ways of sharing my experiences are having very informal mentoring conversations with younger professionals met at different types of events, and publishing articles on LinkedIn.

How about you? How would you start sharing your experiences, your story? Choose the environment, the medium, the topic… and go for it!