Women In Construction Week: 5 Questions With Skanska's Ashlee Frank
Ashlee Frank, a project administrator for Skanska, is the company's only woman working in the field at Capitol Tower, a 35-story office tower in Downtown Houston. (There are a number of other women employed by the project's subcontractors.)
Frank's responsibilities include assisting the project managers on purchasing and renewing permits, submitting change orders to subcontractors and sending invoices for payment.
"Pretty much anything that needs to get done, I tie all the loose ends together," she said.
Frank is among the women who make up 9% of the national construction industry, according to the National Association of Women in Construction, which is celebrating Women in Construction Week this week.
However, that data includes administrative, executive and office positions, roles that have traditionally had a decent number of women, Construction Dive reports. Skanska employs about 1,400 women, or 10% of its workforce, on projects throughout the U.S., the company said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 8.3 million people employed in the field production of the construction and extraction industry in 2018, and women accounted for 3.4% of those positions. Women participation improved for jobs including building inspectors (14%), painters (7.2%) and helpers (5.6%).
Frank spoke to Bisnow about her experiences as a woman in construction, how she got started in her career and what her ultimate career goal is.
Bisnow: Why did you choose a career in construction?
Frank: I did not seek out construction; it kind of found me. And, I ran with it. I needed something that could support myself and my son. I learned to love it. At the time, I was working in a wine room, and I met a woman that was well-connected in the construction field. I became really good friends with her. She didn't want to see me working in a wine room with a child. So she referred me to a superintendent at another company, who needed an admin. I interviewed and got it. Someone gave me a chance, and I just worked hard and built my bank of information.
Bisnow: What is the biggest challenge of being a woman in construction?
Frank: The challenge is with me forcing myself to be confident, speak up and tell myself that I was just as important as anyone else on the job site and doing things I have never done before. Every day, there is something I have never done before. They ask me to do it, and it is problem-solving. They don't care if you don't know how to do it but you must figure out how to get it done. [For example,] dealing with the city has been pretty overwhelming to me because it is hard to get a direct answer. It is learning patience and being persistent.
Bisnow: What's your favorite part of your job?
Frank: My favorite part is that it is not repetitive. You cannot get tired of anything or bored because throughout the building process it is changing and evolving. Something you did yesterday, you probably won't have to do again until the next project. It is fun for me because I hate mundane and repetitive things.
Bisnow: What advice would you give someone starting out?
Frank: She needs to really want to learn. It does not come naturally on a job site if you are not willing to ask the questions and put yourself in people's face. It is hard to retain and learn on your own on a job site. You have to be involved with other people and ask them questions. It is not always easy to get quick answers. You have to be that person that is like, "Hey, can you come to show me?" You have to be the person in control of your knowledge.
Bisnow: What is your ultimate career goal?
Frank: I like the project managing side of the industry. I look up to all of them because of how much they know and how they interact with the subcontractors. I want to be able to answer all questions and have that knowledge. It is a good weapon in the field. [I like] safety too, like being a safety director knowing the OSHA and Skanska standards. I have a son that I like to get back to every day. I work safe, and I want to empower others to have that same value.