Laura Bush, Co-Chair of the NEW Ambassador Council
I've never written a blog before. In fact, the last time I wrote anything close to a thousand words was probably part of writing a scope of work, part of a contract for a construction contractor. I wanted to share what I do as part of my support for Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW), a non-profit that provides free training for women who want to enter the construction trades in New York City.
I am not a tradeswomen. I am more of a "suit," a senior project manager overseeing the construction of a $150 million hotel close to Times Square. When I told my husband I was going to write a blog about what I do every day, his retort was "get up, brush your teeth..." The reality is, what I do is different every day, and that's why I love it so much. My office is located on an active jobsite, complete with dirt and dust and a whole host of characters. I am responsible for ensuring the project runs on schedule and budget, all the way from drawings to someone sleeping in a finished guest room of a fully-functioning hotel. As a construction manager, we represent the clients interest in supervising the design, procurement, construction and ultimately turnover of the finished building to the end user. Sounds pretty straightforward, but mix in with that the array of personalities from the trade workers, to our project management team, the general public, various governing agencies and it can make for a pretty interesting day.
The opportunity for women in this industry is tremendous. I believe your success is ninety percent driven by hard work and that remaining ten percent is who you know and pure luck.
I was lucky. At the age of 16, I attended a career fair and was given an opportunity to work shadow on a job site. A short time later, when I told my parents I wanted to pursue a career in construction, I was lucky they didn't think I was crazy. I was lucky for the contacts I made as my education and career evolved, and for those who supported me along the way. I was so lucky to get the opportunity to transfer to this great city in January 2001, and through hard work and determination, oh, and meeting the man of my dreams, was able to set up home here. I am so, so, so lucky to have my two little girls, who I hope I can inspire to realize their dreams have no boundaries. I am lucky to see that Manhattan skyline every day on my commute to work, and spot those buildings that I had a part in creating.
So here I am, realizing my dream of running my own construction project, and having my own family. Yes, it's still a male-dominated construction world, but that is what makes it even more inspiring.
If you can make it in the city that never sleeps, in an industry where you are drastically outnumbered, then you can make it anywhere. NEW is an organization that shares my vision of gradually changing the culture of the construction industry, by giving women the hand up to train for their trade. That's the challenge and that's the long term goal.
Laura Bush is the Co-Chair of the NEW Ambassador Council. Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) prepares, trains and places women in careers in the skilled construction, utility, and maintenance trades, helping women achieve economic independence and a secure future. At the same time, NEW provides a pipeline of qualified workers to the industries that build, move, power, green and maintain New York. For 35 years, NEW has been a groundbreaking model that works for women and for New York City.