Women Construction Forum (WCF) currently has around 12 members here in the Upstate region of South Carolina. We are women with “field experience” in construction – a diverse group of professional architects, contractors, engineers, and project managers, among others.
Last year was our first full year as a group and we accomplished a lot despite the pandemic. We volunteered to build a reception desk for Safe Harbor Resale Shop, and we continued to work with female students at Greenville Tech to bring work-based topics in a Lunch and Learn format put on by a panel of our members.
This year our mission to mentor young women is expanding. We are focusing on our community by assisting local county schools with work-based programs to try and spark excitement in areas such as welding, construction, mechatronics, engineering, and robotics. Even though a few of these programs lie outside the construction realm, we feel the conversations are often the same and we are happy to offer our professional experience to help generate excitement about the possibilities that are awaiting students after they graduate. Who is to say that robotics will not be prominent in the construction industry in the future?
Recently, we have connected with Michelle Willis, Work-Based Learning Coordinator with Greenville County Schools to come up with a video highlighting many of our members along with short descriptions of their professional journeys. The goal is to promote curiosity, excitement, and confidence in young women considering construction or other highly male populated programs as their career paths. Also, we have met with Kelli Lancaster, Work-Based Learning Coordinator with Anderson Career & Technology Center (ACTC) who has asked us to meet with young women students who are entering their many professional programs. We will have a day of interactive-based learning that will promote the same type of excitement and trigger conversations about what possibilities are out there for them to explore.
Each of these opportunities has challenged us to consider careers in construction from a different age group’s perspective, and the two different platforms challenged us to find creative ways to get our message across. We have our work cut out for us, but we haven’t backed down from a challenge yet and we certainly do not want to set that example for young women. Our opportunity to engage with these work-based programs can be attributed to my co-founder Angela Gardner’s amazing networking skills. She is definitely the one who makes it happen when it comes to our involvement with educational leaders.
As we entered 2021, I began to understand how this small group of women has grown to be so personally important to each of our members. Our women want to be understood, appreciated, and encouraged; and everyone needs a place where they can engage with each other in person. I am so proud of the time that our members take to help each other as well as our community. These women are amazing, and I am honored to know each of them. Our mission has not changed; it is still most important for us to provide a small support setting for the women in the construction industry, and to assist in empowering each other through our engagements. But our availability to mentor young people is a passion that we all embrace.
Meet the Members of Women Construction Forum (WCF)
Angela Gardner, Director of Business Development and Marketing at Hill Electric. Co-Founder of Women Construction Forum (WCF).
Q: What skills do you think you learned early on in your career that are still a benefit to you now?
A: Be reliable – Be on time & do what you say you’re going to do. Be thoughtful – care about others (you have no idea what others are going through at that moment).
Current Projects: Coordinate Lift Safety Training Video at Anderson Career & Technology Center, among others.
Rachel Veltri, Business Development Manager at Morgan-Keefe Builders. Co-Founder of Women Construction Forum (WCF).
Q: What did you think you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: As much as I loved playing with Legos and Lincoln Logs, I never for a moment considered that I would grow up to be involved in construction, I was certain I was going to be a Veterinarian.
Current Projects: Retreat by Morgan-Keefe Builders, among others.
Wendi Carson, Owner of Construction Consulting and Design
Q: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
A: Helping people stay within budget and helping them avoid problems.
Current Projects: Over 8 residentials projects, from Keowee to Downtown Greenville.
Tommi Jones PE, LEED AP, GGP Project Manager, Capital Projects, Clemson University.
Q: What is the hardest lesson that I learned early in my career?
A: To ask for what I wanted. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no!
Current Projects: Memorial Stadium Renovation, among others.
Laurie Gregory, Project Manager at Creative Builders.
Q: If you were to choose a construction trade to go into, which one would it be and why?
A: Framing, besides the fact that I enjoy running a saw, seeing a structure evolve so quickly is my favorite part of a project.
Current Projects: Hartwell Village Student Housing.
Aubrey Davis, LEED GA, Assistant Project Manager at Langston Construction Company of Piedmont, LLC.
Q: What type of project do you hope to be involved in the future?
A: A high-profile or landmark type project that will be around for generations and I can say, “I worked on that project.”
Current Projects: A few security upgrades, office upfits, and ADA upgrades, among many other specialty projects.
Natasha Sexton, RLA, President of Sexton Design and Development, LLC.
Q: What construction trade do you hope to see more women enter in the future?
A: All of them, women have a lot to offer the trades, but we are underrepresented. I hope that we will be able to impact women in a way that will open their minds to entering the trades, because there are many rewarding possibilities.
Current Projects: Grand Bohemian Hotel and True Hotel, Greenville, SC and The Canopy by Hilton, Nashville, TN.
Christi Powell, WBE/MBE and Commercial Sales Market Manager at 84 Lumber Company.
Q: What do you think are traits that make women successful in construction?
A: Women care about people, their projects, their reputation, and they set high expectations for themselves, because they want to make a difference.
Current Projects: The Townes at Converse, Spartanburg, SC, among others.
Genevieve (Gwen) Sollenberger, P.E., Senior Engineer at Bunnell Lammons Engineering.
Q: Who has been your mentor in this business and what have they taught you?
A: My first boss in Texas, Noel Janacek, P.E., was a mentor and he taught me to apply technical knowledge with common sense construction practices. If you were going to state a recommendation in a report, make it clear and concise; never “beat around the bush.”
Current Projects: Unity Park Trunk Sewer Improvements, Reedy River Basin Sewer Tunnel, and many more.
Members not featured above: Racquel Collier; Lauren C. Dorrity, PMP, with American Credit Acceptance; Dana Solomon with CDI Cabinets; and Tori Wallace-Babcock, Project Manager with Mashburn Construction.