It’s no secret that the construction industry has a shortage of female leaders. Although the percentage of women in construction has notably increased from 1.3% in 2017 to 9.1% entering 2019, that’s a small piece of the women’s labor force.
One woman paving her way in construction is Amy Ignatosky, a Project Engineer and Logistics Manager at Turner Construction. Her father sparked Amy's passion for science and engineering and inspired her to pursue her Masters in Mechanical Engineering. Amy admits she was unfamiliar with the construction industry until employees from Turner Construction came to Villanova University to interview potential candidates and share what they do.
"The idea of not sitting behind a desk and being hands on to problem-solving enticed me and I started to fall in love with construction the more I learned about it." From then on Amy started her career as a female engineer at Turner and has enjoyed a wonderful 15-year career with the company that has stayed well ahead of the curve in anticipating and accommodating the needs of their women employees.
Turner has really identified what they can be doing to support their female employees. I've seen them embrace work from home opportunities, create flexible work hours, and offer training for young women to help them shape their career paths in the industry.
Gaining Confidence & Earning Respect
As a recent engineering graduate new to the world of construction, Amy recalls her experience in the field to be distinctly challenging. Working on the construction site at age 22, Amy's stature paled in comparison to those working around her. She laughed as she recalled being asked if she was someone's daughter visiting the job site, or the company's new intern, even well into her career. Her abilities were often questioned.
However, Amy never felt the need to get defensive or offended. As a retired FBI agent, Amy’s father taught her the importance of removing personal ego and treating others with respect. Amy advises that you develop respect over time by demonstrating a strong work ethic, positive energy, and the willingness to be coachable. All of which she continues to perfect in her ongoing career.
Young employees feel the need to always have the answer. A key to my success was honesty. I acknowledged that I didn't know everything and was open and eager to learn.
Confidence was the other key factor that earned Amy the respect of her coworkers and industry leaders. Amy’s confidence was inspired by Jackie Sweeney who she met over 12 years ago. Jackie is a strong female who Amy met working on the Drexel ISB project in Philadelphia. She has since become a mentor and friend to Amy throughout her career.
Jackie's confidence and ability to express herself really made an impression. I noticed everything, from how she spoke and carried herself - even how she dressed. Jackie is a true professional and easily a role model for any young employee that interacts with her.
Jackie taught Amy that it was critical to exude confidence as a woman in construction. Women may not always receive the same level of initial credibility at face value in this industry. Demonstrating knowledge and strength tells others that you don't only belong, but you are there to make a difference.
Building a 15-year Career with Turner
One of Amy's favorite projects that she recently completed with her team at Turner Construction is the FMC Tower. This massive, beautiful, and environmentally sustainable building is Philadelphia's first modern skyscraper called the "vertical neighborhood," due to its mix of property types under one roof.
The tower was very unique. There were people moving in to the building on the floors below while construction activity was taking place above. You're hanging drywall and painting in a space where steel is still being set up above. It was very cool.
Amy recounts that the whole team felt a great sense of pride and responsibility to finish the project. Everyone, including the General Manager, rolled-up their sleeves and worked around the clock to get the job done.
It doesn't matter what your job title is. At Turner, we're all truly a family and when it comes down to it, we always support and help one another.
Finding Her Work-Life Equilibrium
Amy Ignatosky and Family
Working in the construction industry can be grueling with long hours and hard work. Developing a successful career while maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be quite a challenge especially for mothers.
With two young children, Amy has had her own difficulties establishing her work-life balance. "It's really a new set of challenges I'd never anticipated," Amy shares honestly. "I want to be the best at everything, sometimes I even think it's a weakness of mine. How do you define what's best?"
Amy admits that 'being the best at everything' may be an impossible goal, so she focuses on balancing all aspects of her life that are important to her. "There is no easy answer to work-life balance, but it's crucial to continuously check in with yourself to make sure you're satisfied with where you focus your time and energy."
The Most Rewarding Moment
Amy's daughter's school recently had an emergency closing and Leah had to unexpectedly spend the morning with her mom. This happened on the day when Amy was presenting a team briefing to her business unit leadership. Amy quietly ushered Leah into the back of the room as the meeting began.
Amy and her daughter Leah, future dancer and engineer 😉
She was the only woman in the room and Amy wondered if Leah took notice. As she began presenting, one of her coworkers brought Leah to the front of the room and warmly stated: "Look, Leah, don't be shy, that's your awesome Mommy up there talking!"
In that moment, I felt that even at 5 years old Leah recognized that she can confidently stand in a room with anyone and do whatever she wants to do.
This magical moment came full circle as Amy was proudly snapping pictures of Leah for her first day of Kindergarten. Amy asked her daughter what she wants to be when she grows up and Leah responded, "I want to be a dancer and an engineer!" Taken aback, Amy asked if Leah knows what an engineer does. Unfazed, Leah replied, "I was at work with you all day when school was closed and I wanna do what you do.”
Creating a Community of Women in Construction
On top of being a dedicated engineer, inspiring leader, and a proud mother, Amy is a dedicated mentor to other young women in construction. Amy and her coworker created an employee resource group to help give women at Turner an open platform to share their experiences. Amy's candor and vulnerability empower women to speak up and make positive changes.
I’m hopeful that this group becomes an atmosphere of support for women. One of our greatest powers is our voice. Never hesitate to speak up. There is value to what you have to say. You’re there for a reason. Take advantage of the opportunities you have. Be present. Above all, value yourself.
Support for Ana and the Xena Vision
While researching the market to find new safety initiatives, Amy came across Xena work boots and discovered a powerful Instagram post from Xena.
I remember really connecting with Xena's post about having confidence in how you look and in who you are. Seeing how Ana took it upon herself to invent a solution for women in STEM was so inspiring. I actually reached out to Ana after and asked her to come speak at our employee resource group at Turner! We're hoping to make that happen in the near future.