Candy is proud to see women being accepted and respected in the construction industry. When she first started out, that wasn’t always the case.
Candy Meagher, Payroll Clerk for Total-Western, is our fourth participant for our Women in Construction series. While the industry remains largely dominated by men, exciting new prospects for women like Candy are in development.
Candy has been in the construction industry for more than ten years. Upon completing high school, she decided to skip college and go straight to the workforce. A few years later, she would find herself a mother with no job, no career, and attending her first job fair for the construction industry. We had the pleasure of catching up with Candy and asking her a few questions about her journey, struggles in the industry, and her hopes for future generations of women entering the field.
Q: What led you to the construction industry?
I lost my job as an office assistant and found a program called Women in Non-Traditional Employment Roles (W.I.N.T.E.R.) and I signed up for the free introductory classes and training they offered, specifically to work in refineries and IE Petroleum. Once I completed the program, I was able to gain employment with Chevron as an entry-level Fire Watch.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about what your journey/career in the construction industry has been like?
When I started as a Fire Watch, it was my responsibility to stand in a 5-foot space for 10 hours and make sure the welder and those around him stayed safe. Unfortunately, that position was a turnaround and not a permanent job. Upon completion of the project, I went into the corporate office and asked if they needed any help with administrative paperwork, since I have office experience, and they ended up hiring me as a Safety Rep. From there, they accelerated me to timekeeper and payroll. I’ve been a payroll clerk ever since.
Q: What has been the most surprising part of being a woman working in this industry?
I’d say seeing the number of women that are in the industry and holding high positions. For example, when I had the opportunity to work with World Energy, the project manager was a woman and so was the top engineer. For that specific project, they brought in three female interns to work on the plant and shadow engineers and other departments, which I had never seen before. Some of the other projects I have been part of didn’t want women on their site for various reasons, but at World Energy, they encouraged it.
Q: The number of women in construction has been on the rise. What do you think are some of the advantages of being a woman in the industry?
Women are naturally detailed-oriented, which is a skill you need for this industry. Women are also willing to be team players and take team members’ suggestions to complete a job and make sure everyone stays safe while doing it. A lot of the times men will have the “I’m the one in charge, so we are doing it my way” mentality and are not willing to listen to how we can make the project better as a team.
Q: There are physical and emotional challenges that come with working as a woman in construction. What are some of the challenges that you faced as a woman?
There are too many to list, but when I first started out in this industry, men would see us as more of a dating opportunity rather than being an asset to their team. When I began as a Fire Watch, I was often questioned if I was able to complete simple tasks like carrying a fire extinguisher up a flight of stairs or dealing with the hose and fire hydrant. I had to earn their confidence that I could do my job and that I would protect them and keep them safe while doing it.
Q: Seems like you had to work in dangerous environments and carry a lot of responsibilities throughout your career. What would you say is the best part of your job?
Looking out for my team in the field and make sure that everyone stays safe and goes home to their families every day. I work with individuals who feel like a second family to me, so that’s very important.
Q: How do you think construction can attract more female candidates?
Women tend to think that construction is all physical work, hard hats, tools, and getting dirty. But that’s not always the case. The construction industry has plenty of opportunities for women to use their natural skill sets in other areas if they so choose. I have seen women work in safety, hazard waste, administrative roles…the sky is the limit. We really need to shed light on the other facets of construction for women to become interested in being part of the industry.
Q: What makes you proud of working in the construction industry?
My career allows me to be part of a very new and exciting component of the industry which is the world of renewable fuels. These projects are making the environment better by creating safe, sustainable, and reusable fuel and petroleum which help bring down the levels of pollution. I am also proud to see women are being accepted more in this industry. For a long time, we didn’t have a voice. We weren’t being heard.
Q: From your perspective, how has the industry evolved or progressed since starting your career?
The way men look at women in the industry has evolved tremendously. Women are valued and respected more than when I first started. Women are no longer viewed as “housewives” but rather colleagues with valid and knowledgeable insights for projects.
Q: What has been the most memorable project you worked on in your career?
When I worked at World Energy, I was able to work on a project that updated all the equipment and the units to be more efficient at producing renewable fuel. The effect it had on the community was tremendous and it felt great to be part of something that was making the environment better.
Q: The construction industry is embracing the advancement of women. What advice would you give to a young woman entering the industry now?
Take it seriously. Don’t go into the industry looking for a job…make sure you know this is where you want to build your career and come in knowing you’ll need to be strong, hold your own, and earn the respect of others.
Q: What kind of impact would you like to have in the industry once you retire?
I hope to have contributed to building a better, safer, and more inclusive environment for others to work in, especially women. I take my job seriously and I’ve always made sure everyone gets home safe. I’d like to be remembered for that.