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Modern Women in Construction

According to the National Association of Women in Construction, women account for 10.9 percent of the entire U.S. construction workforce in 2022. Luckily for us, we have four of them on our construction team, representing 13% of our entire Oppidan workforce!

One of these powerful women in construction is Marlee Benson, Construction Manager, Midwest. Marlee joined Oppidan in 2022 and is instrumental in managing all aspects of the construction project from beginning to end. She directs the design development of the project and manages the oversight of general contractors during construction. It’s a big job, and Marlee’s the best person for it.

We sat down with Marlee to discuss what it’s like working in a male-dominated field and learn what advice she has for other women in the industry.

What tools and resources have helped you create successful change in your career?

Since the construction industry is very male-dominated, it’s important to find mentors who are supportive of women in the industry. Find a voice who will stand up for you when you’re not in the room. For me, this was co-workers and friends, but also my dad. I’m also a strong advocate for networking groups, like MNCREW. These are great ways to connect with other industry professionals. Within my first two years as a MNCREW member, I made personal connections with multiple C-suite level women throughout the Twin Cities. These groups of supporters are a great way to drive successful change in your career.

How do you work effectively with people in other generations?

Younger generations (roughly those aged 35 and younger) place a high value on a flexible work environment. We want to work from home or be able to leave the office for an appointment without requesting permission. That’s what makes Oppidan great, and why we are a three-time Best Places to Work recipient.

We thrive when we work with diverse people, and in this industry there’s quite a mix of older and younger professionals. Older generations are often tied to an 8 to 5, in-the-office work schedule. Therefore, it can be challenging for them to accept that younger generations may not physically be in the office as much. But, that doesn’t mean younger generations aren’t working, are being lazy, or feel entitled. This simply isn’t true.

So what can younger generations do? We collectively need to showcase that we are working hard and positively contributing. However, we can’t expect to have all of this freedom right out of college. Young professionals need to show up and be present to learn, grow, and gain the respect of their team, so their employer trusts they are working hard when they work from home. 

The construction industry is constantly changing. What are you excited to see in the future?

It’s essential to remove the stigma that college is required for a successful career. Our industry is desperately in need of tradespeople. Many older/more skilled tradespeople are retiring, leaving many openings in their place. Young people need to understand that successful careers are possible, even if you didn’t attend a formal college. But, this requires our industry to accept this and actively promote trade schools and training.

Minnetonka High School has a great program called Momentum, which is designed to help students discover post-secondary options other than college. I’m proud to serve on the Professional Advisory Board, and I enjoy working with these young minds to help them see what’s possible after high school graduation. I hope to see more high schools adopting programs like this.

We all benefit when other industries around us thrive. In order to do this, we must support diverse voices in the workplace, and help make the construction industry desirable to employees from all walks of life. We’re proud to support women in construction.

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