It’s Women in Construction Week. This week promotes the advancement and success of women in construction. Construction is a viable career for women and many companies are headed by successful female leaders.
We interviewed one such leader, Tara, the president of ESG Environmental. Bachly Construction works with her company regularly for air quality, mould and asbestos testing.
We asked Tara what it is like to be a woman in construction.
Why did you choose construction?
I think it was more a case of the construction industry choosing me. I wanted to study forensic science and unravel mysteries in crime and evidence through an investigative process. However, the path to this type of work was becoming more and more saturated with the advent of TV shows like CSI.
When did you realize you wanted to work in construction?
After a few years of just working in both a factory setting and a field technician setting, I felt like I could relate to the old country music song, “Take this Job and Shove It.” So I quit working for other people and started some research on what kind of professional field I could apply my science background and my investigating skills to. That led me to the home inspection industry. In 2005 the industry was just beginning to peak. I bought my first home in 2002 and did not even know such a service existed. So with my air quality/science background and a stint at a pest control agency, I thought I could offer a well rounded home inspection to include termites and mold, on top of the general home inspection. Needless to say, my first job was a termite inspection. My next 2 jobs were for mold inspections with me unwrapping my brand new equipment in the driveway. The second job was on the same day for a young woman who just rented a moldy apartment. Upon showing me the basement she asked, “Is this the worst you’ve ever seen?” I looked her right in the eyes and said “Yep!” After that, I did very little home inspections and my work then focused on mold and moisture investigations.
Who inspires you?
Anyone who shows kindness and integrity. I think it’s very easy for the animal brain to try and take advantage of the weak or uneducated. Being kind and having integrity means making sure you do your best especially when no one is looking.
What have you found surprising about working as a woman in construction?
I always expected to be called the B-word when I had to tell a contractor the job was not adequate. But I found the more you keep your expectations high for how a job should go, the more respect you get, the more referrals you get, and the better quality work you get on the next one.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
Finding the problem, and working with a variety of clients. A lot of our clients don’t even know what the issue is with their home or building. So having a lot of different tools in my belt helps with different investigations for mold, moisture, odours and air quality, and getting people answers is very rewarding. One day we could be sampling a former marijuana grow operation, the next a hoarder’s house, an attic, a crawlspace, a helicopter hanger, a boat.
What do you find challenging about being a woman in construction?
In 2005 when I started working in construction, the stigma was ever-present that women don’t belong working in construction, and if they do, they don’t really know anything. So I really had to prove myself by making sure my clients knew that I am knowledgable. I thought a deeper voice and a set of overalls would come in handy. I used to drive a mini-van. Now I drive a truck. I like to bring all of my equipment in to a job so that the client knows I have a full arsenal of tools, not just a pink pen.
What advice would you give to someone new to the industry?
You need to be tough but kind. Keep learning. Don’t put limitations on yourself.