Published date: 03/10/2023
In honor of National Women in Construction Week, today we give a shout-out to our one and only, Monique Cox, for all that she has done (and continues to do) in the world of construction and labor compliance. Below is a quick Q&A with Monique highlighting her path in the industry and the things she has learned along the way as a woman in a male-dominated industry. Monique has been with LCPtracker for over five years and currently works as a Product Manager.
Q: First off, we have to ask… What made you pursue a career in construction?
Honestly, I wasn’t actually interested in the construction industry – or not initially, at least. I had a family member who was a security guard at a tablet-producing plant not too far from home , and a contractor engaged with him asking if he knew anyone who needed a job. I later received a call from a mid-sized, minority-owned construction company, and they made a great offer to work onsite with great pay. So, I took the position. And as I look back, I am glad I did.
Q: Ok, so then what influenced you to stay in the industry and develop your career here?
I chose to stay on this path for a few reasons. For one, it was something new and different, and I don’t shy away from a challenge. Two, I found that I loved learning about the construction industry and all its possibilities. And third, the sheer nature of putting something together is fascinating to me. There’s just something about watching the process of turning an empty and barren jobsite into something awesome… Something useful and longstanding.
Q: What are some of the biggest lessons that you learned from your time in the construction industry?
A few takeaways here:
- Working hard is different from working smart. There are often multiple ways to get things done, and some are much more efficient than others. That’s part of why I think proper training programs and apprenticeships are so important.
- As my career progressed and I transitioned from a construction contracts administrator to a labor compliance officer working for a public agency, I learned how important it was for a project owner to partner with its contractors. I held pre-construction meetings for all contractors’ payroll staff to go over our rules and regulations, including prevailing wage statutes and the expectations to be met for certified payroll submission through LCPtracker compliance software. This operational process helped me assist the contractors on our job sites.
- Another thing I learned very quickly as a labor compliance officer is that I needed to grow “thicker skin”. Not everyone was ready for a young, minority woman telling them that “they were not adhering to the rules and regulations of California’s prevailing wage laws” or that “it was imperative for their company to pay their workers the appropriate wage rate based on their work in the field.” Those words are not always easy for contractor owners to easily digest or publicize to their staff. And at times, they found it downright offensive coming from me.
Q: How do you see women’s roles in construction changing in the future?
The level of interest in the construction industry is slowly growing for the Millennial and Gen Z populations coming up behind me. The industry has made some great efforts in many regions – like partnering with workforce organizations and the federal government.
Our government is aiding in grant funding for The Good Jobs Initiative and the latest passing of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill which funds maintenance of our ailing infrastructure. The combination of these activities can lead to much publicized discussions on all of the trades in the construction industry and hopefully towards women joining in the effort.
Q: What do you think deters women from considering a career in construction the most, and what would you say to them to counteract these barriers?
Geographically, some areas are doing better than most at changing these perceptions. Several stigmas stand in the way of women joining the construction industry, but there are a few realizations I’ve had along my journey that go against conventional thought.
- There are few women in construction occupations that are visible to the public, but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of them. *Remember, if you can see it, you can achieve it!*
- The stigma that construction is a dirty, brutal, and male-only occupation is only just that – a stigma. *Simply put, there are occupations where, yes, you get to move dirt around, and any occupation can be hard and demanding. And as far as gender goes – men stand out because the current construction industry is male-dominated – but not male-only.*
- Women may or may not want to use a hand tool or heavy equipment or work out in the elements of mother nature. But construction occupations run the gamut; there are so many places a person can go in terms of professions.
Also, it’s wide-ranging; there is an array of administrative and professional positions that are not on the ground or in the “trenches.” And sometimes… you even get to tell the boys what to do.
These are just a few things I want to bring to light that should be clarified for young women with a glimmer of interest. The construction occupations have pre-apprentice, and Apprenticeship Programs you can join and learn at no cost. Usually, as an apprentice, you learn while you earn; yes, on-the-job training can be a possibility.