Women in Construction


Starting a Career from the Ground Level 

Meet Emily. In celebration of Women in Construction Week, we interviewed Project Engineer Emily Odisher. Emily is among 1.3 million women (about the population of New Hampshire) working in the US construction industry, which amounts to 10.9% of the total workforce (2023). She earned a degree in chemical engineering from Western Michigan University and parlayed her internship with Austin into a full-time position upon her graduation.  

Tell us about your journey into construction.  

I chose construction for its hands-on nature. The allure of diverse fieldwork and the daily interactions with construction crews captured my heart. Every day in this dynamic job brings new challenges, and I thrive on the unpredictability. 

Describe your role in the company.  

As a project engineer, my focus is fieldwork rather than the financial side. I handle conflicts, ensure correct installations, and assist with project schedules. My Microsoft Project expertise helps track deadlines and keep crews on schedule. 

What is the biggest strength you bring to this role? 

I believe one of my strengths is my attention to detail, particularly in catching minor errors that may impact aesthetics. This type of focus is crucial, especially when the end product’s visual appeal is significant to the owner. 

How have you settled into your role?  

Though relatively new to my career, I have been accepted on the job site. However, I am only one of only a handful of women out of the 100 team members we have working in the field. Kalamazoo is fortunate to have a Women in Construction chapter. Women in Construction is an organization known for providing a platform for networking and learning. The Kalamazoo chapter is led by Amanda Mason, Project Manager at Austin.  

How have you been mentored and supported? 

While I do not have an official mentor, I have strong connections with my coworkers. Working with a smaller team lets us get to know each other well and experienced members have been instrumental in my learning. 

What does work-life balance look like in this industry? 

I credit a four-day, 10-hour work schedule for significantly improving my work-life balance. Being stationed at the same job site for almost three years has added stability to my personal life. 

What advice do you have for young women in the field. 

Entering the construction field can be daunting, but my advice is to stand your ground when you know you are right and be open to learning. Embrace the wealth of knowledge from the field crews, who are often eager to share their expertise. 

Have you perceived any shifts in the industry?  

As a newcomer, I haven’t noticed any significant shifts in the perception of women on the job site. I have been treated with the same respect as my male counterparts. 

What are you most proud of in your career?  

I take pride in running a project independently. Handling everything from bidding to validation has been a fulfilling experience, showcasing my capabilities. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.  

“Emily has the intelligence and skills to solve project challenges equal to and often greater than her level of experience,” said General Manager, Steve VanWormer. “Perhaps it’s her emotional intelligence that has led to the respect she has garnered from her teammates and clients. She does whatever she can to support the team and at the same time knows when she needs guidance and support from her teammates.” 

 As we celebrate Women in Construction Week, we hope Emily’s story inspires more women to consider a career in the construction industry.  

Want to learn more about career opportunities with Austin.

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