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Women in construction are a growing minority—increasing from 9% of industry workers in 2019 to 11% in 2021. Today, accomplished, influential women work in every sector of construction. As part of Women in Construction Week in March, CE checked in with three women in construction technology to discuss being a leader, where contech is headed and their contributions to the industry: Lauren Lake, chief operating officer and co-founder of Bridgit; Allison “Alli” Scott, director, construction customer experience & industry advocacy at Autodesk Construction Cloud; and Alexandra McManus, chief executive officer at Eyrus, Autodesk’s newest acquisition. 

What is unique about technology in the construction industry?

Lauren Lake: A lot of technology companies take a one-size-fits-all approach with the goal of satisfying the needs of multiple industries. Essentially, the low-hanging fruit. That doesn’t work for construction. The main reason construction technology adoption would be considered slow is simply that technology companies shy away from putting all their eggs in one basket.

Construction is one of the most dynamic and ever-changing industries. Contractors want (and need) tools that were designed and built specifically for construction by companies that truly understand their world and can quickly adapt to the needs of their industry.

Alli Scott: The construction industry is unique because it’s one of the few industries where technology has a direct and visible impact on the physical world. The technology we use in construction not only exists in digital spaces through things like data analytics or 3D models (and more) but also lives out on jobsites and has real, tangible effects. Construction technology bridges the digital and physical world and is an enabler to building the world around us in more productive and innovative ways.   

Alexandra McManus: Construction is very decentralized and fragmented. Technology initiatives in the industry, and specifically those on project sites, need to be able to aggregate and consolidate dynamic data sets and then add value to simplify workflow for multiple stakeholders who often work for different entities. On a project site, for example, Eyrus will coordinate with a project owner, general contractor, hundreds of subcontractors and thousands of workers. We need to be able to provide a solution that works for that project and every other construction project, which each have their own budgets, operations and data concerns. 

Why do you think technology firms are a catalyst for women-led spaces?

Scott: Both the technology and construction industries have historically struggled to attract and retain under-represented populations, including women and people of color. Both industries still have a long way to go, but as the rate of innovative technology grows, the formation of new career types also grows—creating interesting roles for individuals who may not have seen themselves in these spaces before. For instance, you don’t need to know how to code to work in technology—the variety of roles is vast, from data analytics and product development to marketing, communications or even customer relationship management.

Technology firms also have adapted very quickly to pandemic conditions, creating a lot of work-life flexibility for employees. Whether we like it or not, women still make up the majority of household labor in the U.S., and more working moms left their careers or scaled back during the pandemic due to lack of flexibility in their work to accommodate other needs. Flexibility is one small way to create more equity in the workplace, and technology firms have a responsibility to keep this momentum up. 

McManus: Women are generally underrepresented in the construction industry; that said, there are a fair amount of strong women technology leaders in this industry. In my opinion, technology enables women to have a greater impact in the industry where more traditional routes might be limiting.

What do you enjoy most about leading your company?

Lake: I love that I get to have an impact in multiple ways. I get to help our customers in taking a people-first approach to their own teams, I get to provide resources and support a better work-life balance for my team, and I get to show there’s space for women to succeed in both the construction and tech industries.

Scott: As a leader in construction, I enjoy inspiring the next generation to look at how the construction industry is continuing to evolve and empower them to have their voices heard and their needs met. We will not enact positive and sustainable change in our industry without an influx of new talent who are hungry to bring their authentic selves to work, excited to employ technology and an innovative mindset, and have a passion for blending new ways of working with proven craft. As someone in a leadership position, I also look for ways to support organizations or initiatives that help promote awareness and to help folks break into this industry.  

McManus: My co-founder, Hussein Cholkamy, and I are working to build a successful company that would also be a place we would want to work. It gives us the chance to promote the values we believe in: hard work, inclusivity, transparency, flexibility and a strong belief in individual empowerment. Personally, I loved that I could participate in my kids’ carpool when the school buses were shut down and let everyone know that is what I am doing. We expect everyone to work hard and be accountable, but life, especially during the pandemic, dictates that work hours might be different on different days.  

What is important to you about being a woman with a platform?

Scott: As a cisgendered white woman, I have a responsibility to ensure that we create space and opportunities for those who have been historically marginalized, and that also means acknowledging the intersections that exist in our world. Our teams are dynamic and have rich identities as not only women but also across cultures, ethnicity, race and as members of the LGBTQ+ community. These experiences make us who we are and do not exist in silos. This diversity and these intersections also have positive and proven impacts to increasing innovation, engagement, employee retention and even profit. So, it’s important to me that we talk about these dynamics as powerful avenues for making our industry better.  

McManus: There has been and still is a lot of heads-down work that we are involved with to grow Eyrus. Personally, I am still coming to the realization that as a woman, there is a greater value I can offer back to the community. I am consciously looking for ways to utilize my position to provide motivation and understanding. On a local level, we are focused on creating an empowering and flexible workplace for everyone at Eyrus.

What do you hope to achieve with this representation, and with your position in general?

Lake: Being a leader at Bridgit has allowed me to put a stake in the ground on the topics that are important to me. This year, we announced a progressive parental leave program, including paid time off for birth/non-birth/adoptive parents; paid leave for pregnancy loss; coverage of fertility drugs; and a phased return-to-work to make the transition easier on parents. Having two young kids myself, I know firsthand that these are policies that will help create equality in the workforce. I love that Bridgit has given me and Mallorie Brodie (my co-founder) the platform to bring our own perspective and shine a light on a different approach.

It’s rare to see a company with two women founders, not to mention a team of 100 employees with a 50/50 gender split. It’s important to us to show that people from all different backgrounds can succeed at Bridgit. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing our team members thrive at Bridgit.

McManus: By promoting and showcasing how we value our people and by giving them flexibility and control, we hope to inspire greatness from our team. In turn, we hope for Eyrus to provide the same culture to our customers. Having happy employees and happy customers goes a long way.

What is different about you and your company that no one else is bringing to construction?

Lake: We are the only workforce planning product built specifically for general contractors to manage professional staff. We saw that the leading general contractors were managing their professional, salaried employees on spreadsheets or even whiteboards. Trying to understand the utilization rate, hiring needs and capacity to bid more work was incredibly difficult when everything was done manually. There were no other companies focused on solving this pain point for general contractors, and it was clear it was a big opportunity. We made the conscious decision to focus on large-scale general contractors only to start, as being focused would allow us to build a better-fit product for those customers. 

McManus: Eyrus provides a jobsite intelligence solution to help manage things like equipment and materials. We understand that the dynamic of a jobsite can change and be difficult, and we are providing a holistic solution to fit any dynamic. We continuously consider the difficulties contractors, trade partners and trade workers face when trying to complete a project, and aim to deliver a technology platform that is flexible enough to fit within their sometimes drastically different project environments. Eyrus provides the platform to manage the complete worksite, so the site team can focus on building the project.

What is the biggest risk for you right now, in this position? And the biggest risk for contech?

Lake: Consolidation. We’ve seen a lot of companies be acquired by the big players in a battle for market dominance. While this has created a lot of excitement in the industry, it can change the experience for the customer. At Bridgit, our magic is our speed and agility. We are able to speak one-on-one with our users and implement feedback in real time. We know that construction companies want a streamlined solution, so we have invested heavily in building robust integrations with the other leading construction software companies. This has allowed us to offer the seamless experience customers are looking for, while maintaining the nimbleness we have as an independent company. We believe the industry also benefits from this, as we are able to continue innovating at top speed.

McManus: Both risks are the same. There is a lot of technology in the construction market, and many of them are niche solutions or work with only one stakeholder group on a project. But in the field, the focus is to build a project, not to manage technology. Technology needs to work together more seamlessly, and solutions will need to be consolidated. 


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