At one point in time, Grace Uddin felt intimidated by men in the construction field because she assumed they knew exactly what they were doing and she didn’t. Learning how to read plans and specifications was not part of the curriculum when Uddin attended college. Thirty years later, Uddin is the president and co-founder of Grace & Naeem Uddin, Inc., a construction management and consulting engineering firm.
FIU’s Moss School of Construction, Infrastructure and Sustainability invited Uddin and other female industry professionals to be panelists at the She Builds Summer Camp. The camp’s mission is to expose high school girls to the field of construction management and show them the endless possibilities of building a successful career.
According to the National Association of Women in Construction, women make up only 9 percent of the construction workforce in the United States. Several factors can explain why women don’t pursue a career in construction, like a lack of role models in the industry. Natasha Wedderburn, academic advisor for the FIU Moss Construction Management Department, is behind the creation of the She Builds Summer Camp.
“I met with Jose Faria, interim director of the Moss School about creating this camp because I noticed that less than 30 percent of our students are women,” said Wedderburn. “Girls should feel confident that they can enter a non-traditional field for women and debunk myths that construction only means hard hats and manual labor. There’s also the project management aspect.”
Twenty-five high school students from Miami-Dade County attended the camp, including Katya Mollinedo, a 12th-grader from Miami Coral Park Senior High School. Mollinedo participated in a virtual reality driving simulation used to prep a construction worker for driving on job sites. However, she says, her favorite part of the camp was being able to speak with the panel of experienced women in construction.
As a panelist, Uddin stressed the fact that construction workers and construction managers need each other. “It’s a ‘tango’ relationship,” Uddin said. “One group gets the physical work done, while the other focuses on project management and coordinating the logistics.”
The 2019 She Builds Summer Camp was a two-day event, but Wedderburn’s goal is to turn the camp into a week-long event, including a visit to an active job site. So far, the camp has made an impact on the young women’s lives.
“I would absolutely encourage all of my friends interested in STEM jobs to attend the She Builds Summer Camp because I feel that it will open their eyes to the environment we need to promote encouragement for us, girls, in our future workspace,” Mollinedo said.
The She Builds Summer Camp is sponsored by the FIU Moss Construction Management Department.
Learn more about the camp by watching the video below: