WIC Week 2017 – Monica Arbo

Women in Construction (WIC) Week is upon us once again!  This week-long celebration is a yearly acknowledgement of the many contributions of women to the AEC industry, as well as a time to raise awareness of the various opportunities available to women within the industry.

Arden Building Companies is proud to have a diverse group of women working in wide variety of roles, from pipefitting, to sales, to estimating, and accounting.

As part of our WIC Week celebration, we asked members of our team to share their experiences as a woman in construction and offer advice for other women/young girls who are thinking about a career within the industry.  We’ll be sharing these stories throughout the week.

Today, Monica Arbo, Safety Logistics Manager with MJ Daly, shares her story.

How and why did you get into the industry?

Growing up, my father was in a volunteer fire department.  I joined when I was 16 and loved it.  When I was in college getting my Bachelors in Fire Science, my favorite classes were the OSHA classes.  Weird, I know.  My dad has been an electrician for the past 35 years and I remember him getting hurt a couple times.  It’s an awful feeling seeing a loved one get hurt and I feel like if I can prevent it from happening to others, that makes my job worthwhile.  I ended up in construction by a fluke.  I was looking for a job in safety at the exact time MJ Daly was looking for a safety manager.

I am Safety Logistics Manager for MJ Daly.  My job is to basically manage our safety program.  This includes everything from providing training and doing site walk throughs, to tracking OSHA cards and fleet GPS data.  Every day is different and I get to interact with every level of the company from 1st year apprentices to the president.

I’ve been in the safety industry for over 6 years.  I’ve been with Daly for just over a year now.

What challenges do you see associated with being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field?

The biggest challenge I face is preconceived notions.  Every day I go up against how my guys think a typical “safety person” is supposed to be.  There were a lot of trust issues that I had to overcome.   Add to that, I am a “young” female in an older man’s field, it was interesting.  I had to show my guys that they can trust me, that I know my job, and that I’m good at it.  With my foreman, all of my relationships are great.  They know me now and we have trust in each other.  I still get the apprentices that see me and don’t quite know how to take me.

 What is the most rewarding part of your job?IMG_0436

The part of my job I enjoy the most is the relationships I’ve developed with all of my guys.  They’ve learned that I really do think of them as “my guys” and actually care about them going home in one piece.  I love blowing up a new guy’s preconceived notions of what I will be like – surprising them with my knowledge and how easily I adapt to each crew.

 Why do you think so few women are attracted to the field?  Ideas for how to change that?

Unfortunately, I think it’s intimidating for a lot of women.  They are still
considered “man-jobs,” I think.  Even to us.  It’s also hard work.  It’s hard, dirty work.  I love seeing women apprentices on my sites because not only is it breaking the mold, it tells me they’re brave enough to do what they want in spite of everything.  I think that celebrating these women will open the door to others who are afraid to learn what the trades are all about.

 What advice do you have for women/young girls thinking about a career in construction?

If you’re interested in it, explore it.  Take a course, talk to people that do it.  Don’t miss out on a rewarding career because you’re nervous.  Besides, there’s something about a woman who
can walk onto a construction site with the guys and belong there.  If it’s what you want, just go for it.

To read parts one, two, and three of this series, click here.