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Building Leadership Roles For Women In Construction

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The construction workforce is changing. Women are taking more visible leadership roles in construction than before, but the industry still has a way to go. Women made up 9.1% of jobs in construction in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Kristin Anderson

For Eric F. Anderson CEO Kristin Anderson, holding a leadership role in her family’s construction company certainly has its challenges, but it has been worth it.

“I always knew in the back of my mind I would work for the company someday,” she said. “I don’t regret it at all.”

Kristin Anderson will be honored as one of Bisnow’s Bay Area Power Women.

Anderson received her degree from Santa Clara University in mechanical engineering. She worked in the semiconductor field for about a decade. She entered her family’s business as a project manager and soon became the director of marketing.

The San Leandro-based company was founded over 70 years ago by her grandfather, Eric F. Anderson. Kristin Anderson’s father, Donald Anderson, ran the company until his death in 2010. Kristin Anderson took over leadership of the company soon after.

Her engineering background made it easy for her to transition into construction. She still uses her marketing and engineering skills and thinks of ways to integrate her outside knowledge to do things faster from a marketing standpoint and through day-to-day operations.

Building Leadership Roles For Women In Construction

Her company has a culture that fosters getting the job done. She said employees live and breathe that culture. One of the core values at her company is integrity.

Anderson leads by example, showing her pride for the company, working long hours and putting in the time to complete the job at hand. Leading with integrity, doing the right thing, and demonstrating integrity at a job site and in the office provide examples for employees to follow, she said.

She said she not only learns from the company's long history, but also learns from her employees.

Anderson said her dad was one of her biggest role models. He was a larger-than-life character who was generous and held high standards for his employees.

“He would tell me he would wake up in the morning to put food on his employees’ tables,” she said. “That really resonated with me.”

She said working at the company is not only to build a business, but also to support employees as they build their lives.

While she takes what she learned from her father into her role, she does not live in his shadow.

“I try to understand that I’m not going to be my dad or grandfather,” she said. “I am going to be who I am.”

Being a woman brings a nurturing side to her leadership role that men may not express, according to Anderson.

“Men tend to do things a little more black and white,” Anderson said. “I think women are a little more nurturing and see gray areas.”

But leading a business is always a balancing act. She said among the biggest challenges is having to balance between being too tough or not tough enough. She said talking to employees a lot and taking more of a coaching role while staying open-minded helps.

Building Leadership Roles For Women In Construction

Anderson belongs to Vistage International, a peer-to-peer group with women CEOs, where members discuss how they have developed their workplace cultures. Women she has met at Vistage have provided her with various role models, especially since the group has CEOs from all different industries from law firms to PR firms to bakeries.

To encourage more women to enter construction, education has to start early. Anderson said it needs to start in high school and educate girls that construction is a viable career path for women.

Schools already offer strong science and engineering programs for girls. Exposing girls to construction by giving them a chance to build something also can create a sense of excitement for construction, according to Anderson.

She said letting women know construction offers a good salary and is a fulfilling career is important.

Anderson said other ways women have been entering leadership roles is by inheriting the family business, such as she did. She said more second- and third-generation women are participating in their family businesses.

About 30 years ago, the daughter or sister would be the secretary or doing administrative tasks, but over the past 10 or 20 years, the workplace has changed.

“The days of construction being men-only are long gone,” she said.

Join Kristin Anderson and this year’s Bay Area Power Women in San Francisco on May 31 for a morning of awards, networking and inspiration.