Updated: Nov 7
by: Monique Macias
My First National Association of Women in Construction Conference: A Journey of Learning and Inspiration Attending the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) conference for the first time was a transformative experience. This paper explores my personal journey at the conference, highlighting the invaluable lessons learned and the amazing people I had the privilege to meet. From empowerment sessions to networking opportunities, this conference proved to be a remarkable platform for personal and professional growth. The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) conference is an annual event that brings together women from various sectors of the construction industry to exchange knowledge, network, and empower one another. Attending this conference for the first time was a significant milestone in my career, and it left a lasting impact on me. One of the most remarkable aspects of the NAWIC conference was the series of empowerment sessions. These sessions covered a wide range of topics, from leadership and career development to work-life balance and diversity in the construction industry. I was inspired by the dynamic speakers who shared their personal stories and insights. The knowledge gained from these sessions continues to guide my career decisions and personal growth. The conference provided an exceptional platform for networking with like-minded individuals in the construction industry. I had the opportunity to meet amazing women who were passionate about their work and dedicated to breaking down barriers in a traditionally male-dominated field. These connections have proven to be invaluable, leading to collaborative projects and lifelong friendships. One of the highlights of the conference was the keynote address delivered by Jaimie McMillan, an inspirational figure in the field. Jaimie McMillan, a prominent figure in the construction industry, delivered the keynote address at the conference. As an ironworker and motivational speaker, McMillan has made remarkable contributions to the construction field and is known for her advocacy for gender diversity and inclusion in traditionally male-dominated sectors.
1. The conference taught me the importance of self-confidence and self-advocacy in achieving my career goals. The stories of successful women in construction inspired me to aim higher and persevere through challenges. It taught me that building a strong professional network is essential in any field. The conference emphasized the power of connections and provided a platform to establish meaningful relationships that have since opened doors to new opportunities.
My one and only disappointment during this conference stemmed from the noticeable absence of attendees at the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) awards ceremony. In my view, this ceremony held profound significance and was among the most pivotal events to attend. It celebrated the commendable efforts of individuals and companies striving to effect positive change in the workforce. Astonishingly, even in the absence of concurrent breakout sessions, less than a third of the conference's participants chose to be present. This lack of attendance underscored a collective failure to recognize the paramount importance of DEI.
by: Kim McBride
Annual conference in Portland this year was all I hoped it would be and more. The speakers were amazing women from all different backgrounds. The variety of different topics in the breakout sessions seemed to have something for everyone and the free time to network and socialize seemed about right. I met women from all over the country and was impressed and inspired to hear their stories.
Wednesday started with a jobsite tour of the Portland Central Library. The architect and one of the project engineers, both young women, guided the tour. The building was built in 1913 and last remodeled in 1997. This is a minor renovation project consisting of electrical and computer upgrades, new floor coverings, paint, and major bathroom remodels.
I attended the First Timers Orientation, along with some 300 other first time annual conference goers. This was followed by a welcome reception at Deschutes Brewery.
Figure 1 Portland Central Library: choosing paint colors.
Figure 2 Story Tree in the Childrens section.
The annual meeting kicked off Thursday morning and the opening speaker was Dr. Rhianna Roger. She is a super impressive woman. She is the director of the Center to Advance Racial Equity Policy and a policy researcher at the RAND corporation. Before that she held administrative and teaching appointments in higher ed and tribal government. Her keynote topic was What You Need to Know About the Infrastructure Act and How We Can Innovate Further Utilizing DEI. The key takeaways for me from her talk were the
1. Bringing all sides to the table in any negotiation.
2. Mentorship – giving up power and giving space to the mentee.
3. For every major decision look back and forward 7 generations.
When we parted for the breakout sessions, I mostly choose the Leadership Track. My first session was Transforming Through Effective Coaching with MJ Clark. MJ is VP of Integrated Leadership Systems which does leadership training, executive coaching, and consulting to foster more authentic communication in the workplace. The key points I gathered from her were:
1. Understanding human behavior and recognizing that everybody starts from a different place and belief system.
2. It doesn’t matter what happened, how can we learn from it.
3. Stay just outside your comfort zone, that is where growth happens.
Thursday’s lunch keynote speaker was Jamie McMillan from Kick Ass Careers. Jamie is also an iron worker and boilermaker. She shared her story of getting into the trades and compared it to climbing a mountain with many up and downs. There are many paths and detours to all our journeys. I really appreciated her honesty and vulnerability sharing her personal story. As a fellow woman in the trades, I connected with her and her story. She founded Kick Ass Careers to Engage, Educate and Encourage youth to consider career pathways in skilled trades and technology through schools and community outreach.
The phrase she said that will stick with me is “Journeyman” is a status not a gender. As a journeyman electrician and a woman, I have always had an internal struggled with the term and have never been completely comfortable with it for myself or referring to other women.
Thursday’s afternoon session was The Value of Personal Branding with Kellie McElhaney. Dr. McElhaney is a professor and the Founder/Executive Director of the Center for Equity, Gender, and Leadership in the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Key take aways.
1. Your brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room.
2. Be fearlessly authentic.
3. Be the author of your own life.
The rest of Thursday events were cut short by my headache and a need to nap in order to rally for Thursday evenings social events. The Pacific NW contingent was invited to the office of Skanska for drinks and appetizers. Here is our Eugene chapter enjoying some needed networking and social time.
Friday morning started with breakfast and a chance to check out the vendors in the construction zone and enter to win some great raffles through NEF, (NAWIC Education Foundation) and NFSF, (NAWIC Founders Scholarship Foundation). I learned more about each of these organizations and the great work they do to provide education and support to the industry.
The breakout session I attended in the morning was Jamie McMillian’s Talk Tools in Schools. She got more in depth about what Kick Ass Careers and their mission to talk about the skilled trades as a viable option to kids as they are looking at careers. She has a great way of connecting and getting kids engaged by making it fun and getting their attention. This topic hits home to me as I was one of those kids that was not cut out for the traditional careers for women and was not really exposed to the trades as an option until my 20’s. Also, as someone who has gone into schools to talk about career paths, she had some really good ideas to get kids attention.
1. You have 30 seconds to engage them.
2. Money gets their attention.
3. Speak vulnerably.
Women in Leadership and Diversity & Inclusion with Lisa Laronde was the next session I attended. DE&I is a journey, not a destination. We all need to understand our own biases, societal prejudices and be on the journey to be better, more aware, and more inclusive. The key takeaways from her talk were.
1. Celebrate the skilled trades.
2. Educate the young kids.
3. Share our stories.
4. Learn to golf.
Friday lunch was the installation of the new NAWIC 2023-2024 officers! We are lucky to have these dedicated, intelligent, strong women leading our industry and our organization. They are our “Key to the Future”. See the next page to meet our new officers.
The next and last session was Social Media Do’s and Don’ts with Shannon Vogel. Shannon talked about the different social media platforms and the audience that use each one. Using the proper social media outlet to promote ourselves and our business is about connecting, building relationships, and getting referrals. Homing in our message to provide a solution to your customer is key and it requires work and attention. Know your customer and social media platform they use.
1. Facebook – largest demographic is women 55-65
2. Instagram – quick post with images and videos
3. Linked in – all business all the time.
4. Build trust, Inspire, Educate, Tell a story.
By: Cassandra Dare
It was an honor to attend the 2023 NAWIC National Conference.
This was my first National Conference, and the experience exceeded my expectations. The comradery amongst the members was inspiring, positive, and uplifting. I’m grateful to be involved in this remarkable organization.
The various programs which offered training and the multitude of speakers was invaluable.
It was exciting to be present during the various ceremonies which recognized so many NAWIC members who went above and beyond this past year and of course the recognition of our outgoing and incoming National and local officers.
It’s difficult to select only one or two speakers who moved me and who have impacted my way of thinking since the conference but there are two who have made a lasting impression on me.
· Jamie McMillan, KickAss Careers.
o Jamie talked about her struggle to find her way. How she overcame diversity to become a female ironworker when women represented less than 2% of the trades
o Jamie is the Founder of Kick Ass careers, a skilled trades advocacy group whose mission is to engage, educate and encourage youth to consider careers in Mechanical, Industrial, Technology and Construction industries. She and her business partner “Pat” have helped connect thousands of youths with the option to find better suiting careers for their learning styles.
o The motivation and determination she lives and breathes is uplifting and encouraging. I urge you to become familiar with her story to find the encouragement and motivation I did.
· Shannon Vogel, Empowering Women
o Shannon was the Closing Keynote Speaker. She gave us all a “peptalk” and what a talk it was!
o Shannon reminded us how we should be empowering ourselves, how selfcare is not selfish, and how to stop apologizing. “We apologize too much. Apologies lose their value. Instead of saying things like Sorry I’m late say thanks for waiting for me or Sorry IO messed up instead say Thank you for your patience while I’m learning.”
o I could go on and on about the way we should support one another but most importantly is how important it is supporting and caring for ourselves.
o Shannon talked about “Society’s Checklist”. “They” tell us how things should be, how things should be done, etc. Does that work for you? You own your journey. Do what works for you.”
o Shannon reminded us to speak kindly to ourselves since our body hears everything our mind says. If we speak kindly to ourselves watch what happens.
o If you want to be motivated, reassured, empowered, check out Shannon on her Facebook page called Fabulous Females.
Many thanks to the volunteers and sponsors for supporting this conference. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.
By: Robin Langkamp
This was about my 25th national conference, but I am still amazed by the power in a room of 500+ women with the same mind set of learning, support and friendship! It lifts you up and gives you knowledge that we are on the right path!
It was great to have so many ‘first timers’ form our chapter attending and realizing the power of NAWIC! Reuniting with so many friends from other chapters, is probable my favorite part of conference! Some of them date back to my very first conference in Toronto!
Of course, the speakers were fabulous and so inspiring! You’ll read several recaps from the other members in their reports. This conference seemed to have a lot of content on DEI, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. So, I tried to learn a bit more about how we can make a difference in our chapter and community. Our own Destiny Dawson received an award for her work on the national DE&I committee!
I tried to pay attention to any Bylaw and Standing Rule changes, because you know ‘That’s my jam’! 😊
There was a bit of change in the format/scheduling of the conference, but you need to change things up a bit every so often. In all it was one of the best I’ve been to and being in our own region and state, made it the best!
Everyone should try to attend at least one, as the experience is quite different from a chapter meeting or even a regional event!
Thanks to the chapter for allowing me to be one of our representatives!
By: Kay Ewalt
This was the 4th annual conference I’ve attended with NAWIC and as always it was an empowering, motivating, and an inspiring experience. To date I would have to say this was my favorite annual so far! The keynote speakers and sessions were so great! The top sessions I enjoyed and gained so much knowledge from are the following
Kaitlin Frank; “The Future of construction by technology and inclusion” this class put so much perspective on learning new technology; that it is never too late no matter what the excuse is
Jennifer Todd; “Leverage your business relationships” this particular session was all about using your power, and being yourself to build lasting business relationships and grow your business. Here are a few snippets I really liked and had meaning to me!
· Pain Points; always remember your worst day
· Solve the problem; listen and learn
· Under promise and over deliver (give yourself a buffer)
· Be your authentic self
· Fortune Favors The Bold
The keynote speakers what can I say they were all freaking fantastic all powerful but with a very different message! Dr. Rhianna Rogers, Jamie McMillan and Shannon Vogel!
Dr. Rhianna Rogers was fascinating she discussed the largest infrastructure bill in the US ever, which passed in 2021. She discussed the difficulties of Sofi stadium roadways in and out of the event center. She also said something really important “every great decision you make always look 7 years back and 7 years forward at past best practices.
Jamie McMillan Kick Ass Careers phew what can I say? I related to her the most!!! A Union Iron Worker from Canada coming from the tradeswomen side of construction she hit on a lot of things I connected with. Her story was such an inspiration she discussed the stigma of construction from childhood up until now! She told us her story start to finish, in a vulnerable way leaving none of the sad real life moments out! She didn’t shy away from some of the hard truths, depression, loneliness and her ADHD or all of the great moments either! This was truly a soul searching moment anyone can learn from! She talked about her parents wanting her to be a nurse/caregiver “have a normal career for a young woman” to joining one of the hardest working, male dominated trade and really making a great name for herself. Now she is touring all over Canada and US going to into schools of all grades. Making sure all students know construction is a real viable career! Breaking down barriers to teach young girls can be in the trades. Her work is really important to teach young kid’s construction isn’t a dirty word and get these kids into the TRADES!
In conclusion I walked away from this conference with a new since of purpose! I was so proud that our chapter had so many attendees!