The seventh-annual Women in Concrete Luncheon and Forum targeted the hot issue of employment trends—discussing the ongoing efforts to support women in traditionally male fields and how to take advantage of new career opportunities. This year’s speakers concentrated on how to create job growth for women in the concrete construction industry. Important insights included the challenges specific to women in the concrete industry, and how women can poise themselves for success in an uncertain economy.

Sara Andon, graduate assistant, Concrete Industry Management Program (CIM) (Booth NL15) at Middle Tennessee State University, discussed the new Executive MBA program in concrete and construction management and how this development opportunity benefits women in all stages of their concrete industry careers. Andon is a graduate of the CIM bachelor’s program and currently is pursuing her Executive MBA through the new program. Andon talked about how CIM can help the female population excel in their concrete careers.

“CIM can be the source for women to further themselves in their career,” says Andon “There’s not a single other MBA that concentrates on concrete and construction.”

Ed Sullivan, chief economist for the Portland Concrete Association (PCA) (Booth C4221) provided an outlook on industry job growth and employment trends, and offered insights to help attendees best position themselves for success. He explained that one in four women in construction lost their job during the recession, yet the industry has kept a consistent percentage of 9% women in the construction industry. Additionally, he finds that women are stronger in the environmental area, where women make up 1% of the jobs. He expects the environmental field to be a future strong area for job growth.

“This whole movement of sustainability will be fueled by not ‘I want to be nice,’ but ‘I’m cheap,’” says Sullivan, as he explained how sustainable/environmental solutions will save money. Sullivan predicts, “We won’t see an improvement in the construction job market until late 2013 to 2014.”

Kimberly Kayler, president, Constructive Communication Inc., Dublin, Ohio, represents the U.S. Department of Transportation Roundtable on Women in Blue Collar Transportation Careers. She explained how government-sponsored efforts to create opportunities can benefit women in concrete careers. As co-chair of a task force targeted at young women and girls focused on conducting outreach and awareness about blue-collar transportation careers, many key challenges were discussed that exist for women in the industry.

“Several barriers exist for women entering the industry such as difficult work culture, lack of basic skills, and information about opportunities,” says Kayler. “As women in the concrete industry, we know that there is a tremendous opportunity for blue- and white-collar jobs in our market. That is why an industry-wide effort is needed.”

At the end of the luncheon, attendees were asked to vote for the 2012 Woman of Distinction Award winner, which honors a woman of influence in the concrete industry. Last year’s winner, Rosa Olivia Becerra Blancarte, was recognized at the luncheon. The award was established by the Women in Concrete Alliance (WICA)—a networking organization for women in the concrete industry. Watch for tweets from @womeninconcrete announcing the award winner!