FORT WORTH, TX — The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) will turn 50 next year. Membership in the organization is on the rise, reflecting the increasing number of women in the construction field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of women in construction jobs increased 20% between 1995 and 2000.

The association is seizing the opportunity to reach out to new markets and spread the word that construction jobs are a viable alternative for women.

“A typical comment when we say what we do is, ‘Really, you work in construction?’” said Nena Holder of the NAWIC Wichita (KS) Chapter.


The organization began as “Women in Construction of Fort Worth” in 1953. Two years later, it gained its national charter and became NAWIC. There are currently 6,000 members in almost 200 chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada. NAWIC has also signed agreements with affiliate organizations in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

NAWIC lists five basic reasons why membership in the association can enhance a career in the construction industry:

1. By associating with other women in the industry — Chapter, regional, and national meetings bring together business owners, executives, engineers, subcontractors, etc.

2. Through construction education — More than 30 groups (including the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Small Business Administration, Associated General Contractors of America, and Women Build of Habitat for Humanity) have partnering agreements with NAWIC.

3. By sharing knowledge and educational opportunities — NAWIC’s Education Foundation offers courses in the fundamentals of construction terminology, processes, procedures, and technology that provide an overview of the industry.

4. By providing member services and benefits — Programs offered include a credit card program, travel, car rental, office supplies, subscriptions to industry publications, and discounts on textbooks.

5. By promoting industry and community involvement — Chapters participate in projects like Habitat for Humanity, blueprint reading rooms, homeless shelters, playgrounds for children, and construction safety workshops.

NAWIC promotes itself, too. “The Education Foundation administers education programs from the K through 12 level,” said Leona Dalavai, communications director. “At the grade school level we have ‘Block-Kids’ building contests that are geared to introduce young people to construction as a fun field with a lot of career opportunities.

“Children learn that when they grow up that they can work in the construction industry and be an engineer, architect, drafter, estimator, project manager, plumber, etc.”


Although that list currently doesn’t include the hvac trade and Dalavai said the national chapter does not interact with the hvac trades, the same is not true in Wichita.

“Many of our members work for hvac contractors and plumbing contractors,” said Holder. “We have members who themselves are owners of plumbing and hvac companies.”

Dalavai noted another important function of NAWIC is breaking down some of the negative stereotypes of women working in the construction trades.

“We see part of our job as an organization is to educate the public about how construction is so much more that just hard labor,” she said. “It’s actually comprised of trades where you have to have skills and get training, and, in many cases, certification, before you are licensed to practice your trade.

“I don’t think the benefits [of construction work] are all that different for women than men. Like men, women have a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride in their work.”

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Publication date: 06/10/2002