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Focus - Making construction a woman’s career

image Taryn Ritchie, Chapter President National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), Estimator, Ryan Companies, Austin, TX

AUSTIN - A mother of two beautiful daughters, Taryn Ritchie is proudly a fifth-generation Texan who learned through experience that creating strong, productive relationships with subcontractors and other team members is the key to success in the office and on the job site.




How did you get started in construction?
    I guess you could say it is a family thing, both of my parents work in construction and I grew up going to the yard that they worked at a lot. Through their connections and guidance I got my foot in the door and have been in the industry for about 17 years.
When did you decide this was the career for you? 
    I don’t think I was convinced when I first applied for a receptionist position, but I was given several great opportunities very early on and saw the potential for a lifelong career.
How would you describe your experience working in the industry as a young woman? 

    Overall, I would describe it as an engaging and satisfying experience. Have there been hurdles along the way? Yes, but I persevered, and learned as much as I could from my peers, mentors and subcontractors/suppliers and kept climbing the ladder.

 Do you have a mentor?

    I have had many amazing mentors. They have guided me, challenged me and given me opportunities that I might not have been considered for if not for their recommendations.  I highly recommend seeking a mentor, even if it is an informal arrangement. There is something to be said from learning from other people’s knowledge and experience.

What opportunities has the industry given you to broaden your horizons or take on new challenges?

    I have been very lucky. As I mentioned I had a great mentor early on that saw potential in me and pushed me in the right direction. He was instrumental in my decision to continue my career path in estimating. From there I went from an estimating assistant to estimator. 
What are the benefits for women pursuing a career in construction?
    It is a booming industry and there are so many different career paths in construction from development, design, engineering, project management, trades construction to building maintenance, just to name a few. There are jobs with opportunities to travel locally or internationally. If you like a challenge it offers that on a daily basis. 
What challenges have you seen?

    I think early on a lot of the positions for women in construction were clerical or administrative in nature, but there has been a large shift in the last 10-15 years where women are stepping outside of those roles and changing the perception of what we as women are “capable” of doing. And although we aren’t quite there yet, we are making steps in bridging the gender salary gaps and in providing training and opportunities for women to step into managerial and upper management positions.

Have you found associations to be helpful for women?
    Yes, as the President of the Austin Chapter of National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) I would say they have been extremely beneficial. My suggestion is to find an organization that best aligns with your goals and needs; and then go to a few of their events, seminars or meetings before joining.  I would also suggest joining their committees that focus on areas that might be interesting or meaningful to you.
How has being a part of the construction community changed or influenced your life as well as your perception of the industry?
    There is definitely a sense of pride when you see a building completed that you have spent years working on, and that it will most likely be there after I am gone. Also, that I can’t stress enough that there are many opportunities for women in this industry. It’s an industry where women can grow, learn and have a long lasting career.   
    National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) is an association network for women in the field of construction.

    Ryan Companies is a national builder, developer, designer and real estate manager with offices across the nation. -cmw

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net