Lauline Mitchell, Past-president of NAWIC

Current Director of Pre-Construction, BBI Construction

Dovetail attended the NAWIC 2023 Annual Conference in Portland last week and caught up with the National Association of Women In Construction past president, Lauline Mitchell.

What does a day in your work life look like?

I jump on line first thing around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. and check emails while I am working out on my elliptical machine or stationary bike. I check emails again when I'm done, while throwing together a quick breakfast of fruit and yogurt or cereal.  I try to be in the car by 7:30 or 8:00, at the latest, on the days I have to head into the office.  Most of my meetings start by 9:00 and are intermittent throughout the day.  I usually eat at my desk and power through till it’s time to head out for home. Evenings are family filled and I sincerely try to leave work at work at that point.

What made you start doing the amazing things that you do?

I was intrigued with building.  I wanted to learn about carpentry and stumbled into project management.  When I started, there were a lot fewer women, and even fewer schools, that offered undergrad degrees related to construction. I got into NAWIC while trying to find business development sources.  Again, stumbling onto a great thing while looking for something else.

Did you complete any training? If not, how did you learn your trade/skill?

I took a carpentry class at a local Junior College and had an amazing female professor who was encouraging and a fantastic mentor.  I connected with good companies who believed in their employees and were always offering training and pushing us to be better employees.  The rest was trial and error, as I gained experience simply doing the work.

What do you want people to know about being a woman in your field?

While it may often feel like it, you are NOT alone.  You do have to seek out others, but there are many women in the construction industry who want to support, mentor or sponsor other women.

You’re finishing up your year of acting President of NAWIC, how does it feel? Did anything surprise you about the role? Any takeaways?

How many words am I allowed?  It feels good to begin the transition out and be able to see tangible differences that my efforts made over the years.  Every year brought surprises, but it wouldn't be life if it didn't.  My biggest challenge was to manage, direct, persevere through those surprises and I think as a team we managed it to the best of our abilities.  It turned out okay!  The association is still up and running and moving forward under the next round of good leaders.

What are the top five things that are always in your pockets? 

lip balm, telephone, money, keys, a pen

How do you encourage other women to start doing what you do? 

Ask them what they'd like to build if they could and let them know they have the power to do it by joining the construction industry.  It only gets better, when I start talking salary, and the fact that our industry has a very good pay parity rate.

Who’s a role model who helped you in your journey to where you are? 

Many women have helped shape my journey in the construction industry.  To name a few Cynthia Correia, Connie Leipard, Fran O'Sullivan, and Catherine Schoenenberger.

If you could give your 20-year-old-self advice, what would it be?

Dig deep, think hard and go for whatever it is you want.  You can do it!

Do you have any special projects or cool things you want people to check out?

We'll have a new NAWIC website August 21, 2023 and I'm excited for folks to get a good look at all the information that will be available.

What does workwear designed for women mean to you?

It means increased safety.  When I entered this industry there were almost no choices and it was very difficult to find PPE/clothing that fit properly.  I love that, now, we not only get choices, but we also get comfort and style!

What do you have to sacrifice to be good at what you do?

Time.  It's the critical component that we take for granted, but it is our most precious resource.  Spend it wisely and you will prosper and grow.  Spend it foolishly and you will wither and fade away.

Tell us something surprising about you.

I read 2 or 3 books a week for pleasure.  It's my relaxation.

What was the dirtiest day on the job?

When I was a project engineer, boots on the ground, any day we had a concrete pour was inevitably one of the dirtiest.

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