Creating a space for women construction workers: Meet NAWIC’s newest Chapter Presidents

Supporting women in construction is one of NAWIC’s most important missions. And this year, three new chapters rose to the challenge of continuing this initiative. As more women construction workers make their presence known within the industry, NAWIC is there to support and promote them. Which is exactly how the national association has grown to include 117 chapters (and counting) across the country.

To educate members on how they became involved in creating NAWIC’s newest chapters, and to inspire others to create even more growth for women construction workers, new chapter presidents Olivia Adolph of the Montana Chapter #387, and Jillian Penkin of the Buffalo Niagara Chapter #388, joined us for an interview about the chartering process. From what they thought of recruiting during a pandemic year to what they hope for the future of their new chapters, every NAWIC member can relate to a piece of the stories these chapter presidents shared.

Were you a NAWIC member before this new chapter began?
Olivia: I became a NAWIC member in 2018 – two and a half years before the official start of the Montana Chapter.

Jillian: I was a member of the Rochester, NY chapter for about nine years. I served on the board and as chapter president.

What was your role during the chartering of this new NAWIC chapter?
 I was the acting president during the chartering of the Montana Chapter. I communicated with our region director and NAWIC national president throughout the process. My primary focus was recruiting the 25 required members with local luncheons and socials across Montana.

Jillian: I was the chairwoman; my co-chair was Jen Burton of Oaks Dumpster. Jen is now our chapter vice president.

What was the chartering process like?
Olivia: There were three Montana members, including myself, who spearheaded the chartering efforts. The most challenging aspects were reaching women construction workers across most of the state since our chapter covers all of Montana – as well as chartering during a national pandemic. Our recruiting efforts began in the summer of 2019 with a tour of major cities in Montana with hosted lunches and socials to meet women in the industry and attract new members.

Jillian: The chartering process went smoother and faster than I could have ever imagined because of the hard work and support from our national office, regional leadership and the amazing women construction workers of Buffalo, NY. This chapter never could have come to life without the passionate and driven women that make up this chapter. I started with a phone call to Doreen Bartoldus in mid-September last year. From there I was on the hunt for 25 women willing to sign up to be a member. By November we had 32 and on January 28th, 2021, we were officially a chapter. I was merely the spark—the women who became members of this chapter and serve on the board are truly doing the hard work to make us successful.

What inspired you to run as president of this new chapter?
Olivia: I am excited about the start of a new chapter, and I really like that I can be part of setting the foundation for a strong future for a Montana chapter.

Jillian: As chairwoman, I wanted to run for president because I felt it was my duty to step up and work with the board to give our members the programming they expect and deserve. Our board is phenomenal and so plugged into this city we live and work in. It is such an honor to call myself president of this chapter of women- I look up to each of them.

What do you hope this new chapter brings to NAWIC, to the chapter members, your community, and to women construction workers in general?
 I hope we can continue to connect women construction workers in the state to other incredible women in the industry while giving them support and resources to grow as individuals and in their careers. In the future I hope that we can continue to give back to our communities through volunteer work and connecting with the youth to instill excitement about construction as a career path, especially for women.

Jillian: My main goal is to create a space for women construction workers in this industry to come together, share work, experiences and get on a path to mentorship—either as mentor or mentee. I hope to see us become a household name and connect with local schools and students creating a sustainable path for more young people to come into this industry.

How has NAWIC changed your career or outlook on the construction industry – or your life personally?
 NAWIC has shown me that there are so many women construction workers and companies that want us to succeed in our careers. The chapter members’ employers, including my own, have been overwhelmingly supportive of our chapter. Because of NAWIC I have grown into a more confident public speaker, more professional communicator, and a better advocate for women in construction. The connections I have made have also made me more resourceful and more knowledgeable in my field.

Jillian: I truly don’t know who I would be today if I hadn’t found NAWIC 10 years ago. This group, these members, and the friendships I have created because of this network have meant everything to me and my success. NAWIC taught me how to be a professional woman and how to support and cultivate growth in the women around me. I can’t put into words how powerful this organization of construction women is and I promise that you will get back every ounce of energy you put into your membership with NAWIC.

The National Association of Women in Construction now has over 117 local chapters across the United States, which makes it very easy for female builders to connect with our network of professionals. Membership is open to all construction women and NAWIC is able to provide members with amazing resources to help them gain confidence in their abilities and develop more leadership skills. Any female builders interested in becoming a NAWIC member can apply for membership by using either the online form or downloadable application to fill out and mail in – both of which are available on the NAWIC website. There are also several membership options available with flexible pricing and membership terms. To learn more about the female builders and powerful construction women involved in NAWIC or if you have any questions about membership, contact us through our social media pages.