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A Reflection on Being a Woman in Construction - Aida Gomez

My name is Aida Gomez and I am anoffice engineer with Hill International, Inc. I’m currently based out of Hill’s office in Miami, FL. I have about 22 years of experience working with various engineering and construction consulting firms. After graduating from Wood Tobe-Colburn College in New York City with an associate’s degree in occupational studies, I got my first job as a receptionist for an engineering consulting firm.

 

Immediately I found that there were difficulties related to being a woman in this industry. I was a young woman too, which didn’t necessarily help. The biggest challenge, by far, was convincing the people around me that I was capable. The company was expanding as I arrived and so there seemed to be opportunities for growth there. But it was tough to take part in the company’s growth. I had to earn the trust of the company’s decision makers. Fortunately, I had a lot of ambition, so I did my best to learn and take on new responsibilities where I could demonstrate my diligence and abilities.

 

With persistence and hard work, I was able to move forward in my career. I progressed from being a receptionist to an administrative assistant. Eventually I had the opportunity to do field inspections. And since then, for the past ten years, I’ve been in document control. I’m very happy with where my career has gone. But I still think that it was more difficult than it should have been for me to make progress along my path. That is to say, some barriers to progress existed only because of my gender. Entering into field inspection, in particular, was difficult. It took some convincing that I had the ability to be out in the field under strenuous conditions.

 

I am a strong woman and I am not afraid to learn new things. I believe my perseverance made progress in my career happen. Even now, I don’t believe I have reached a ceiling. I would like to take on new responsibilities at Hill. Specifically, I would like to work on a local project with Hill—perhaps do some work in the business development sector.

 

Hill has been a positive environment for me. I’ve been here for three years and have learned a lot in that time. We have a good group of people in Miami. It’s like a family. In my current role with the company, I manage document control for MSC’s Ocean Cay Marine Reserve Project in the Bahamas. It’s an exciting and complex project that involves the reclamation of a formerly industrial island to be used as a destination for cruise ships and tourists as well as a marine reserve. Document control is important on any project. But for this project in particular, which involves the coordination of very many stakeholders, careful document control support has been so necessary to project success.

 

As a woman, you really have to be ahead of the game in order to be recognized in this industry. For that reason, I like dealing with the challenges and stresses of such a job as Ocean Cay because it’s the best evidence that I’m capable of doing so. Women just entering the industry should be aware that it’s necessary that they take on similar challenges for their own career development. I would tell young women entering this industry to never give up. I would encourage them to think outside the box. Be positive, strong, and assertive. You can find success in construction, you just have to persevere along your own path.

 

I also feel that women need to feel empowered to thrive. I always support my women coworkers and I myself feel supported by other employees at Hill. I’m glad that we have that kind of culture here, but it should be the norm across the industry. It’s also important for leaders to support their women employees. I think the best way to do that is to give them opportunities to be challenged and to lead. Let them overcome challenges and learn from their struggles with challenging work.

 

After almost 23 years, I’m very happy with my own career in the construction industry and I look forward to whatever comes next. I’m thankful for all the support I’ve received from my coworkers, such as the whole Hill team in Miami. And I’m proud of all the challenges that I earned the opportunity to overcome. I sincerely hope that other women are able to find similar fulfillment in this industry.