Women make up almost an equal share of the national workforce as men, yet in the construction industry those numbers drop dramatically to ~11%. The National Association of Women in Construction focuses on growing the role of women in the industry and takes a week every year to highlight women and raise awareness of the opportunities available to women specifically in the construction industry.
We work very closely with the construction industry and wanted to take the opportunity to highlight someone who exemplifies pioneering spirit and leadership as a female in the construction space. This past year, we’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Allegra Klossen, Project Coordinator for the Aviation & Federal division of Burns & McDonnell. She took some time this week to talk with us about her decisions to enter the construction industry and the women who helped guide her along the way.
What got you into the construction industry?
Klossen: It was quite unintentional, actually. After graduating from college, I began working in an administrative role at a large law firm and found myself gravitating toward case work with the construction litigation group. I found their cases interesting and challenging, and ultimately became a paralegal for the group. After 8 years in the construction litigation industry, my mentor, who had moved to a role at Burns & McDonnell, put me in touch with a few of her female colleagues to network with, one of which created an opportunity for me with the company. I’ve been working as a project coordinator supporting the aviation commercial fueling and ramp services team since joining Burns & McDonnell in 2019, and have continued to deepen my knowledge in varying aspects of the construction industry.
Who has been your biggest champion?
Klossen: Holly Streeter-Schaefer, who now serves as associate counsel at Burns & McDonnell, was one of the only female attorneys in the construction litigation group at the law firm I worked at after college. Not only is Holly an amazing mentor to me, but she actively encourages and inspires all women around her to break down barriers and make a place and name for themselves in whatever industry they’re in. I would not have had the courage or inspiration to pursue a career in construction without her guidance and encouragement. Additionally, my current manager, Wendy Hageman, aviation projects director at Burns & McDonnell, has been such an amazing champion for both myself and her entire professional services team and is a true example of what a female can accomplish in the construction industry. With her mentorship and support, she has helped me conceptualize and build a career path at Burns & McDonnell and figure out how to capitalize on my talents. She is a strong female leader at our company and truly has the best interests of her team at heart.
What challenges do you face being a woman in the industry?
Klossen: Women in the construction industry, and across all industries, often face unfair assumptions, intentional or not, that come along with being female. Women often have to take a few extra steps to prove their competence and knowledge in order to be taken seriously, more so than their male counterparts would. Regardless, it’s important for women to break through these barriers, and own their role, whatever it may be.
What advice would you give to women wanting to break into the construction industry?
Klossen: The construction industry is full of opportunities for women and is often overlooked. This industry isn’t just brick and mortar anymore— it’s ever-changing and becoming more and more intertwined with technology. There are countless paths women interested in the industry can explore for careers. They should be ready for constant change and adaptation to keep up in this evolving and advancing industry. Women bring so much value and perspective to the table that this industry needs—own your path and go for it!