BOCA RATON, Fla. — You may not initially think of women in construction, an industry once dominated by men.
But in 2022, during a building boom in South Florida, industry leaders believe things are changing when it comes to gender and jobs.
Nekita Whyte works in the South Florida construction business as an assistant operations manager.
"I like it because there is a day-to-day challenge," she said.
Her boots are on the ground at the job site alongside hundreds of men.
"There is ... one woman to every 30 men," she said.
Whyte is still one of few women in the field but said things are changing.
"When I walk onto a job site, I don't feel there is a surprise that I am there," she said. "I feel that there is a respect that I am there. I am not ostracized or left out of any conversations. My opinion is considered and I am supported."
Adam Watson, a senior project manager for Current Builders, said companies are now looking to recruit more women to the field of construction.
"We are definitely seeing a spike in participation from females," he said. "Traditionally, it's been a man's business. I mean that's out, that is no longer a thing. … South Florida is booming with construction, so there are a ton of opportunities for men and women to join."
Melisa Perez is one of those women. She is 25 years old and an assistant project manager.
"Every company is hiring right now," Perez said. "I think the industry is becoming more inviting to women."
She's noticed a change in even just a few years.
"When I first started, it was intimidating," she said. "In every meeting, you are the only woman, and not only are you the only woman, I'm usually the youngest person in the room as well."
Perez graduated from the construction management program at the University of Florida.
"I studied construction in college, and my class specifically, had the largest percentage of women that they had seen in years," she explained. "We had a class of 30, and there were about 10 girls in it, so that is huge."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up about 11% of total construction jobs. When it comes to on-site jobs, it's only about one in 100. But industry leaders said the tides are turning now.
"I think it just really goes back to that intimidation factor, maybe it was considered a man's world, but from a management perspective, it's not, it's not. It doesn't really need to be predominately men, and I really think that is no longer a thing," Watson said. "I think this is just going to be a continuing trend that we see."
It's a trend that women in the business see are on the right path, but believe it has a long way to go.
"I just hope to see one day see more women in the industry with leadership roles," Perez said. "I think, right now, it is just starting to become popular, so hopefully in the next 10 years, you'll start to see a lot more women-owned construction companies."
"I know that I have been raised to be fearless and accept challenges as they come, and as I would encourage any other woman, just go for it," Whyte said.
All in all, a different skill set is now being invited into what was once called a man's world.
"I know all the men are going to hate this statement, but it's true," Watson said. "Construction, you have to be able to juggle several items at the same time. And, there is no question that women are better than that than men. Sorry guys, but that's that."