Her Goal is Clear: Benefitting Women in Construction

 |  Sundt People

Melanie HealeySundt Benefits Administrator Melanie Healey is the Vice President of the Greater Phoenix Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction, and the incoming President for the 2016-2017 membership year. She has been in human resources and administration for more than 15 years and finds her work in benefits to be one of the most rewarding experiences in her career. Melanie is a graduate of The Art Institute of Phoenix (1998) and Grand Canyon University (2015), and considers herself a lifelong learner. Her work history spans many different industries including aerospace, chemical plating, tattoo and behavioral health, just to name a few. A mother of two, wife and avid mental health and Autism awareness advocate, Melanie is passionate about people and helping individuals make wise, creative, and chaos-free decisions that will help them live the best lives they can.

How did you become involved with the National Association of Women in Construction?

When I was hired at Sundt four years ago, I was new to construction. I grew up in aerospace manufacturing and worked in a number of different industries prior, so construction was a whole new world for me. My supervisor at the time encouraged me to get involved in industry organizations that would help build my knowledge of construction as a whole. NAWIC was the first place I found with a well-rounded group of individuals, from operations and support, to vendors and contractors, who I believed would offer me the best opportunity to learn from others in the construction industry.

What does the organization do?

NAWIC’s core purpose is to enhance the success of women in the construction industry by providing education and a network of likeminded individuals for support. In the Greater Phoenix Chapter, we offer multiple opportunities to meet throughout the year, including a monthly educational meeting. We also do events in the community, including our annual Block Kids, which encourages kids to get into the spirit of building. Among other things, we provide scholarships to women pursuing construction-related certificates and degrees in higher education in Arizona, jobsite tours of local and national projects, as well as volunteer building inspections with the Phoenix Fire Department. And we have a little fun while doing it all, too!

How much of a positive impact can organizations like this have on young women who have an interest in the construction field?

As with any organization or opportunity, the impact the organization will have on a member is dependent upon what the member puts in. When I joined, I stayed back to observe and figure out the culture. But when I realized the great things NAWIC was doing in our community and the mutual opportunity for success, I jumped in and started volunteering. I began as a member of a planning committee and continued on to join our board as secretary in my second year. It has made a world of difference in my confidence, my understanding of the industry, awareness of what our folks in the field encounter day to day, and most importantly, perspective and knowledge to be successful in my role in our industry. I think NAWIC brings a level of camaraderie to our members and provides young women entering our industry with role models, great support and opportunities to expand their knowledge.

How important is it to have an organization that offers networking and mentoring programs for women in the industry?

It’s 2016 – support for women should just be support for workers. But we still have a ways to go, particularly in the construction industry. An organization that invests in showing women the opportunity and impact they can make and invests in the future of young women in STEM as well as the trades will be instrumental in bringing the construction industry light-years ahead of what we’ll see from other sectors. We have more than 9 million people working in construction in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but only 9.3 percent are women. It’s vital for leaders in our industry, like Sundt, to continue to seek diversity in our workforce. Women bring to the table different perspectives and ideas that create a thinking environment. Encouraging a mentorship mentality and networking opportunities will help bring the best talent to our work and continue to encourage the great talent we have.

How well represented are women in Sundt’s workforce?

I think Sundt has recognized that we have a lot of room to grow in this area. Our female craft population is roughly 1.5 percent of our entire workforce, operations and pre-construction rests around 7.5 percent and our support staff is about 4.5 percent. Sundt’s population is less than 20 percent female, yet the workforce in the U.S. is much closer to 50/50 than it ever has been. Sundt is making great strides to connect with organizations like NAWIC, in Greater Phoenix and in other regions, as well as reaching out to college groups like Advancing Women in Construction, to bring smart and talented new minds into the construction field. Our involvement with the East Valley Institute of Technology and Metro Tech High School, as well as local apprenticeship programs at community colleges are changing the shortage of women in the field as well, and will help us stay relevant and informed. As a leader in our industry, Sundt recognizes that this ratio needs to change and the need to be prepared for the challenges women face in the workforce. Recognizing these needs, acknowledging possibilities for improvement and making a plan to grow is just one way we remain a great place to work.