GroundBreak Carolinas is honored to spotlight Angela Gardner and Christi Powell, members of the Class of 2022 GroundBreakers — an exclusive group of individuals who have gone above and beyond to make a difference for the construction community in the Carolinas.
Gardner and Powell are co-creators and hosts of the recently launched Women Talk Construction podcast, which is elevating the industry by encouraging women to enter the construction industry – both professional and skilled trades – and supporting those already in construction-related careers and non-traditional roles.
Gardner is Director of Business Development and Marketing for Hill Electric, an industrial electrical contractor in Anderson, S.C., and Powell is the WBE (Women Business Enterprise) Market Manager for 84 Lumber, a leading building materials supply company with locations across the country.
This “dynamic duo” formed a virtual kinship via LinkedIn in 2020. With more than 50 years of combined experience and a mutual passion to connect, mentor and celebrate other women in their industry, Powell and Gardner decided to step out of their comfort zones and launch a podcast – with full support from their employers.
Through weekly interviews, the Women Talk Construction podcast encourages inclusion in construction while fostering a culture of mentorship, trust, integrity, leadership and education. With 21 podcast episodes aired to date and 1,500-plus downloads, these two inspirational women are gaining new followers every week. In fact, Women Talk Construction just made billd.com’s Top 11 Construction Podcasts of 2022 and thousands are already engaged in their online forum.
More to the Story
When people hear “construction industry,” they typically envision men in hard hats and yellow vests with a tool belt around their waists. It’s no surprise that the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 9.9 million men are working in the industry, yet the industry also employs 1.1 million women. And yes, they too are sporting hard hats and strutting tool belts.
But the disparity in numbers presents a challenge for women who want to network, create connections, and seek out industry leadership and mentors. Enter Upstate South Carolina’s Christi Powell and Angela Gardner who designed a plan, grabbed their tools, meshed their experience, and built a cutting-edge global platform for women in nontraditional roles.
With a solid foundation in place, the two fast-tracked their idea of building an online social community and launching a podcast where women in non-traditional roles can share valuable advice and real-world best practices with their listeners. They have filled a void for women in the industry who want to connect with peers while developing careers.
Powell and Gardner’s Women Talk Construction website and forum launched in March 2022 and quickly accrued over 300 members. The duo knew they were on to something as they were making connections from entry-level to executive level in a variety of industries. Within the first seven days, the forum went live, six people and companies found new jobs and employees.
“What we heard from Women all over the country while meeting in 2020 was that women were craving a community where they could find support. They wanted to hear feedback while sharing work challenges like being a single mom, being the only female on a project, or even what to wear to a job site,” says Gardner.
“Community is key,” shares Powell. “Women in construction, as well as other non-traditional industries, needed a landing spot where they could exchange information and find support among their peers.”
Fast forward a few months to July 2022. Women Talk Construction listeners and followers already represent more than 350 cities and 20 countries.
Beyond the Podcast
After seeing how individuals connected and were inspired by monthly small group get-togethers of women in construction, Powell was motivated to find a way to share this passion with all women after traveling the country and seeing needs everywhere. In response, Powell and Laura Biggerstaff, owner of Iron Elk, formed Women Confidence Builders, a non-profit hosting luncheons for women and men in the Upstate of South Carolina featuring speakers in excellence with a message: “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!”
Their next Women Confidence Builders event, in collaboration with the BMW Supplier Diversity Conference, will be held on August 30, 2022, at the Greenville Convention Center. With its dynamic speakers, the luncheon is anticipated to attract more than 350 attendees. Watch for more details about the event via the Women Talk Construction forum.
Giving back to the community is central to all of Powell’s and Gardner’s endeavors. To that end, the Women Confidence Builders non-profit has committed to support Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR Upstate), an organization devoted to aiding those affected by substance abuse disorders, including family members. “This is an organization that is near and dear to our hearts. I was thrilled to discover that Angela and I shared a common desire to help and give back to FAVOR,” said Powell.
What’s Next for Women Talk Construction?
Gardner and Powell are already blueprinting bigger and better ideas for the future, including on-site video interviews with female construction pros and educational seminars for members looking to enhance their skills, develop their careers, and become leaders in their industries. The duo is even entertaining working with companies on their inclusion strategies.
“According to global records, the construction industry is stacked to be a $90 trillion industry by the end of 2024 and women in construction are poised to be a pivotal part of the growth and innovation of the future,” said Powell. “Our plan is to enhance their toolbox so they can be successful in that future.”
It’s All About Relationships – How Can You Help?
The building and construction community is well aware of the buying power of women and the growing number of females entering the industry. It was not long before sponsorship partners began to reach out to Women Talk Construction. Powell and Gardner say the goal is to continue to form partnerships and attract sponsors, which will allow them to grow the community and strengthen the relationships.
“We have been overwhelmed by those who have already come on board, including BuildXact, ECI Solutions, Hill Electric, Brasfield & Gorrie, Gallagher Insurance, Construction ACHE Solutions, and Skilled Trade Alliance,” said Gardner. “Their commitment to a sponsorship means they support our mission and share our vision.”