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Women in Construction Week:  Highlighting the Contributions of Nicole Gust and Julia Cruz

Updated March 6, 2023

Women make up only 11% of construction workers in the U.S. And yet 44% of the top 100 contracting companies have women in executive roles; 16% employ women in C-level positions. The average tenure of women leaders in the industry is 15 years.

Although the industry is dominated by men, these numbers tell the story of a demographic of workers that are valued and have been given opportunities to contribute uniquely, at some of the highest levels of industry achievement.

Join RMC Group in celebrating Women in Construction Week, March -11, 2023. We salute all women in construction this week and every other week of the year!

Q: How did you first become interested in construction?

Nicole: My dad was a DIY fixer upper and our house was constantly under renovation. He didn't like to hire people, so I was his helper, holding up the drywall throughout my childhood. That sparked an interest in a job that wasn’t behind a desk or in an office. I like the visualization part of being able to see something tangible being done from my work. After high school, I got a degree in construction management. I was previously a superintendent with Mortenson Construction in Chicago for seven years.

Julia: Honestly, I always thought I would be interested more in detective work. It wasn’t until my aunt began working at RCCS (soon after it transitioned to Belfor) for Bill Sutter’s father that I really began to consider working in construction. After that, I started working in contents restoration. This position gave me the opportunity to travel and was able to help in the 9/11 tragedy, an unforgettable experience. That had a big impact on me, but I enjoyed the work a lot especially when it’s helping others when they most need it.

Q: Why have you stayed in the construction business?

Nicole: I like the puzzle of figuring out a building or putting it back to the way it was originally. I like problem-solving and the collaboration between property owners, the insurance companies, and the contractors. I enjoy working through the challenges together and putting together the best game plan to move forward.

Julia: I think it’s because of the similarities to detective work. I love to problem-solve, travel to different job sites, and I enjoy collaborating with everyone involved. I would also say my RMC team is a significant factor in staying in this industry. I love having a team that makes me feel completely valued and supported.

Q: Has the industry been supportive of women?

Nicole: I’ve had a mixed bag of experiences in my career, but I feel fortunate that RMC and my past employer have been nothing but supportive and I have never had issues with my employers and peers.

Once, at a previous job, I was starting a new construction project and was in the company pick-up truck waiting to meet the contractor. I had all the gear on and was ready to go on the job site. The contractor walked up and asked me where my boss was. I just looked down at the logo on the truck, back up at him, and said, “What do you mean? It’s just the two of us here.”

It turned out to be a great working relationship, but it was funny that he couldn’t imagine I was the person he was going to work with. Occasionally, a woman shows up and people aren’t expecting to see someone like me. More often than not, the project wraps up and they express some sort of surprise at how knowledgeable I am about the industry. These stories are few and far between. There seems to be a shift of people who appreciate the dynamic of having men and women working together.

Julia: The RMC team and the company are highly supportive of women. It’s good to see that more women feel comfortable enough to be in this line of work. Thankfully, I have not faced any issues when collaborating with other companies. They always express how good it is to see a female in the business finally. I’m glad to say that I have chosen the right company for me as a woman in the construction industry.

Q: Do you bring a different perspective to a job site as a woman?

Nicole: When I get on a project – especially if it’s one with a lot of parties involved – there’s an approach that I found helps. Look for the tension in situations and try to defuse it. People are dealing with unfortunate situations and tempers can run high, especially in a male dominated industry. I do think that because I’m a woman I can diffuse situations and work through issues in a calm manner. It works in my favor when people see a woman coming up and assume we’re not going to come in guns blazing and screaming and fighting. That can help open the line of communication.

Julia: As a woman I bring a different perspective by bringing my past experiences and language diversity to each job site.

Q: What advice do you have for women considering a career in construction?

Nicole: This is an industry that has a lot of opportunities and niches. Whether it’s being in the trades and swinging the hammers or working on the managerial or consulting side. There’s room for women at the table. There are fewer barriers than ever before.

Julia: There are many more opportunities for women in the construction industry today. My piece of advice is: Do it! Construction does not always involve getting your hands dirty. If you don’t like that, you can be a consultant, manage a project, and travel. There are so many different things that need to be done. What is great specifically about RMC Group is that we can grow here.

Interested in joining RMC Group? Review our current openings and apply today!

Nicole Gust is Director of the West Region and Executive Building Consultant with RMC Group. She's been in the industry for more than 10 years and is based out of Portland, OR.

Julia Cruz is a Building Consultant and Contents Consultant with RMC Group. She's been in the industry for more than 10 years and is based out of Olathe, KS.