Women in Construction convention being held in Tulsa this weekend

Friday, May 17th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

This weekend, Tulsa is the host of the regional convention for the National Association of Women in Construction. That's right, we said women.

People are still surprised to find women at all levels in the construction field. But as News on Six business reporter Steve Berg tells us, their numbers are "building".

When Morene Baker went to work for a construction firm in the 1960's, her job was in accounting, not on the construction site, for one simple reason. "It wasn't available to us." Even though Morene and her husband had built their own house. "Oh yes, I can go out there and hammer as good as anybody."

Then there's Joani Kelly. She started in the business just five years ago doing office work. But now she's a project manager giving orders to the men. "I can't see myself doing any other kind of work now." Clearly, times have changed. "Most definitely."

Peggy Machlan was the owner of a glass company for many years. And sometimes, it seemed like it took years to overcome stereotypes, but she never got mad. "I'm a really patient person." She says the work speaks for itself. "You can only do the best job you know how to do, and as those male contractors realize that perhaps she does know what she's talking about, they'll come to accept."

Their motivation is the same as any construction worker. To start with nothing, and then to see the finished product. "There's something really satisfying about that." Like a Habitat for Humanity house. The volunteer crew building it is all women. They have a simple message for other women and girls who might wonder about competing in a business dominated by men. "That we're capable, and we love it as much as they do." "Used to we kind of got put down because we were women, we didn't get the opportunity and now the young ladies can get out of college and earn as much as men do now."

Change is still slow though. According to the US Department of Labor, women still make up only about 2 to 3% of construction jobs and construction trades.