Launched in 2019, Women Construction Forum (WCF) is comprised of women contractors, architects, engineers, project managers, business owners and other construction professionals who are involved in both residential and commercial construction in the Upstate region of South Carolina. The relatively small group began holding meetings in Greenville in March 2019. They hope to expand their geographic footprint over time by inspiring forums in other parts of the state.
GroundBreak Carolinas recently spoke with the Women Construction Forum’s founders – Angela Gardner, director of business development and marketing for Hill Electric, and Rachel Veltri, founder and president of Neves Construction. Both women have spent most of their careers in residential and commercial development/construction.
How did the idea to start the group begin?
We began to discuss the idea in 2018, knowing that there were already several large organizations in the Upstate and nationally that focused on membership recruitment, education, and filtering information out to members. We recognized that those organizations were lacking true one-on-one connection with others – the opportunity to have real conversations about day-to-day life in our careers and personal lives. We thought it would be helpful to form a smaller type of group that focused specifically on sharing knowledge and experiences with other professional women who are involved directly in construction.
Who belongs to the Forum? Who can be part of the Forum?
Our WCF members include women from Sexton Design and Development, Bunnell Lammons Engineering, R-PCI Construction, Creative Builders, CBRE, CC&D, Mashburn Construction, and others. We include women who have or are currently literally working “in the field” of construction. We feel having “field” experience is crucial to our conversations and what we are trying to accomplish in our efforts to give back to students and our community.
Your logo says: Women Construction Forum | Empower | Engage | Mentor. How do you empower, engage and mentor?
Our logo represents our vision, to help build up women and their voices in the construction arena by Empowering, Engaging, and Mentoring women entering the industry. We empower and engage by holding monthly meetings (pre-Stay at Home order) at restaurants around town where we exchange personal and professional experiences, recommend subcontractors, and discuss ways to help each other with new opportunities. Each of our members consider each other when recommending resources for projects around the Upstate. Last year, thanks to Greenville Tech’s Kelvin Byrd, Dean of the School of Aviation, Construction, and Transportation Technologies, we formed an alliance with Greenville Technical College. This brought us the opportunity to share our knowledge and experiences with women in their Welding, Construction Engineering Technology, and Mechatronics programs. We have held two Lunch & Learn events for students; both were well attended and both complete successes in our eyes. Many of these women have questions about the work environment and how to handle issues that arise. Some have been placed with mentors, and many need help with their resumes and suggestions on how to begin networking and finding job opportunities.
What other groups or organizations are you working with directly or indirectly?
As mentioned previously, we are working directly with Greenville Technical College through our mentoring program. In addition, we were involved in the 2019 local Habitat for Humanity Women Build Event, and this year we will volunteer our time and resources on a project for the Safe Harbor Resale Shop, operated by an Upstate non-profit that helps victims of domestic violence in our region. We want to get involved in the community through construction-oriented tasks that inspire women to empower other women.
What have you missed most during the COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Order?
Rachel: I recently finished building my own personal residence and I miss being able to pick up items at TJMaxx, Homegoods, etc. However, more than shopping, I miss seeing our members, each one of these amazing women truly inspire me each time we meet up!
Angela: It’s been different not being able to have the in-person connectivity – for sure! I appreciate the virtual learning opportunities, behind-the-scenes work accomplished, and preparation to launch a new Hill Electric website that this time has afforded me. I look forward to seeing my peers “in-person” soon. #InItTogether
Top photo: Rachel Veltri (center) and Angela Gardner (right) with Greenville Tech’s Kelvin Byrd, Dean of the School of Aviation, Construction, and Transportation Technologies.