Leading by example: How empathy and inclusion can change construction

By on March 13, 2018

From ConstructionDIVE:  Katie Coulson hadn’t planned on working in the construction industry. When she went to the University of Wisconsin, her initial career goal centered on finding a path to get a good job that would help her pay for college.

Coulson began on the track to becoming a chemical engineer before shifting to civil engineering because she thought it offered for more opportunities to work with people. She would later work for a semester and summer with the Illinois Department of Transportation where she found her knack for managing people.

“I really liked the problem solving — there’s a new project and new issues all the time,” she said.

Coulson would later leave road construction for an opportunity with Skanska USA in Portland, Oregon, where she has moved up the ranks — from field and project controls to vice president and account manager — for the past 18 years.

In her time at Skanska, Coulson has served as chair of the Portland chapter of the Skanska Women’s Network, which helps recruit and retain women at the company, and currently holds the title of national programming chair for the organization.

Empathy’s place in construction

Though Coulson’s drive and people skills have helped propel her career, being a woman in a male-dominated industry has presented challenges.

“When I first started [with Skanska], I was managing meetings and it was mostly men,” she said. “I couldn’t just walk in the door and have that instant credibility, but once people knew my capabilities it was a lot easier.”

Today, Coulson is highly sought after for her mentorship and advice by both men and women at Skanska and in the industry.

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About Dede Hance