The first full week in March marks International Women in Construction week, which has been recognized since 1960 to celebrate the achievements of women in the industry. It was started by the National Association of Women in Construction back in the day to support the few women who worked in the industry at the time.
It’s been amazing to see so many more women joining the construction industry ever since, and the pay gap between men and women is small compared to some other industries (we’re holding out for no gap, but that’s a subject for a different article).
In honor of Women in Construction week, we thought we’d present five amazing achievements by women in the industry that you may not have known about.
#1 – Emily Roebling and the Brooklyn Bridge
Emily Roebling was an engineer who oversaw the completion of the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge in the 19th century. Her husband had initially been the chief engineer on the project, but he became bedridden when he began suffering from decompression disease. Emily Roebling took over in his stead, applying and expanding her expertise in materials and engineering calculations. She also took over day-to-day supervision and project management until the bridge was completed in 1883.
#2 – Edith Clark and the Graphing Calculator
Electrical engineers everywhere should thank Edith Clark for inventing the graphing calculator that solved power transmission line problems. She was the first woman to graduate from MIT’s electrical engineering department and later went on to teach at the University of Texas in Austin, where she became the first female electrical engineering professor in the United States. Edith Clark is credited with many other innovations, including electrical engineering solutions for dam building.
#3 – Elsie Eaves in Transportation
Elsie Eaves (born 1898) was the first female associate member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and one of the founding members of the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE International). She worked as a draftsperson for the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, and the Colorado State Highway Department. Elsie Eaves was known for her ability to build databases without using computers and was one of the first engineers to use data collection and reporting to track spending related to construction projects.
#4 – Elizabeth Diller in Architecture
Elizabeth Diller co-founded the architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro in 1979. She has been known for creating visionary cultural spaces that are recognized as landmarks all over the world. Notable projects she has spearheaded include the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, buildings at Brown University and Stanford University, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMA), and renovations to Lincoln Center. In 2018, Elizabeth Diller was named to the Time magazine 100 most-influential people list for the second time—the only architect to earn the distinction.
#5 – Lillian Gilbreth in Management
Lillian Gilbreth was a mother of twelve children and an organizational psychologist who became known as the mother of modern management. If you’ve ever grabbed the ketchup from the handy shelf inside your refrigerator door or used a step pedal trash can, you can thank Lillian Gilbreth for the convenience—she invented both. In construction, she applied principles of psychology in the workplace to help enhance productivity.
Honoring the Contributions of Women in Construction Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
We are grateful to all the incredible women in the construction industry (especially those working with us at HOLT: Ashley Warren, Jennifer Nelson, Vicki Serfling, Cindy Brosius, Brooke Scruton, Samantha Benedict) for their hard work and dedication to building communities that thrive.
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