“I remember riding on the city bus and googling ‘what’s it like to be a woman in construction?’ on my phone,” says Jenna Stein, a 2016 graduate from the University of Minnesota’s Construction Management program. “I found that in this industry, if you present yourself in a way that demands respect, you will be respected.”
Stein, a Hilger Leadership Award scholarship recipient, began her studies at the University of Minnesota as a student in architecture, but when she found out about the Construction Management program, she changed her direction.
“When I told my dad about my choice to go into construction, he was worried about how I would be treated in the industry,” Stein remembers. “That concern was based on common stereotypes about construction. But, of course, he supported my decision and told me he knew I’d be successful on a jobsite as long as I was smart and efficient.”
Stein definitely checks those boxes, and she hasn’t looked back from her choice to pursue a degree in construction management. She started out working part-time as a Project Engineer for JE Dunn Construction, and now, post-graduation, she’s onboard full-time.
“I think of the Construction Management program as the hidden gem of our school,” Stein says. “It releases students from the abstract aspects of academia, and shows you what you’ll do in the real world.”
Stein attests that she uses everything she’s learned so far in class at JE Dunn. “I see the value of everything I learn in what I do at work,” Stein says. “It’s a seamless transition.”
When asked if she feels pressure as a woman in the field, she admits that women are a noticeable minority on any construction project, but the future continues to look brighter.
“The industry is really making progress, and Minnesota in particular is making progress,” Stein says. “Companies are realizing women add so much value to their teams. The bigger challenge is retaining women who do decide to enter the field. Someday I’ll be in charge of trades crews, and I want to make sure women are treated fairly.”
Jenna's advice for women in entering into the construction industry: “Question the stereotypes. Question the expectations. Question what people are saying that you should do with your life because you can do whatever you want. This industry can be intimidating. At no point should you let people walk over you. Just take your time; you’ll get there.”