The construction industry has long gotten a bad rap—not only for being male dominated but also for being not particularly welcoming to women.
But Nancy Juneau, CEO of Juneau Construction Company, says things are changing. “When I talk to women on college campuses today, I let them know that it’s really not like that,” she says. “Often, I’m not the only woman in the trailer any longer.” Still, Juneau continues, being a minority can work to your advantage: “You’re going to stand out. In the end, that’s a good thing.” Juneau makes her firm stand out—and keeps it moving forward—by encouraging a strong company culture and adopting new technology to attract the next generation of employees. Watch the video to learn more.
Nancy Juneau, CEO, Juneau Construction Company: I’m the CEO of a construction company. Typically, if the CEO is a woman, the reaction is, “Oh my God, that’s so cool. How did that come about?” If it’s a man, it’s usually a bit more like, “Really? Well, what kind of construction?”
One of my first jobs was for a structural engineering firm. I loved it. I found myself leaning toward business development. Education is my background, and I found myself educating clients as to why they should give us an opportunity to pursue their work—and even educating folks internally.
I think what’s so unique about my job today is that it’s in three different segments. Maybe a third of what I do is internal meetings here in the office. A third of my time is spent doing Juneau things outside of the office, visiting jobsites. Another third is being a mentor internally and externally to women in construction.
My days are never the same. What is rewarding is when I’m sitting one-on-one with an employee or a small group of employees, and we’re either solving a problem or they want my opinion on how to tackle something. Part of my role is to help them, guide them, and then let them go do it.
We really wanted to have a different culture in our company, which I think is still important to us today. Even after we’re long gone, if our culture is still focused on family, on doing the right thing, and other characteristics that are important to us, then I think we will have checked off a big box.
I think early on, often folks felt like, “Well, she’s married to Les [Juneau], and yes, they’re partners in that way, but really he’s running the company. She’s really not running the company. She just has this designation to win work.”
In the beginning, that was really hard for me; I took it really personally. Because I don’t have a construction or engineering degree, I’m probably harder on myself. But I realized that if I learn as much as I can and ask a lot of questions and gain the trust and confidence of my clients, our subs, and my people, then I have their respect—and the rest is irrelevant. I just let that go.
I’ve learned to make quick decisions, but I think as I’ve grown, I’ve realized that some of my better decisions were made when I took the time, even bounced ideas off of other folks, especially our younger folks. My daughter works with our company now. She’s a millennial, and I value her opinion. She brings a different perspective than, say, my husband, who is a baby boomer like I am.
If I look at what’s going to move my company’s needle forward—to be sustainable and successful five, 10, 25 years down the line—it’s technology. I look at technology in two ways. Technology is going to allow us to build the best, fastest, most cost-efficient project in a team atmosphere with my engineers, my architect, and my client. These are things that we have in-house today.
And I’m constantly telling my guys, “Go to this conference; go to that conference; learn what we are missing.” If I don’t provide my current staff with opportunities to figure out what’s going to move the needle, and to do it differently and do it better, then I’m going to lose those folks. So, selfishly, I know we need to budget and spend a lot of money on technology because that’s what’s going to keep us ahead of my competitors.
There is still some misconception that construction’s so male dominated and negative, and when I talk to women on college campuses today, I let them know that it’s really not like that. Often, I’m not the only woman in the trailer any longer. We have women project managers, project engineers, pre-con managers, and that’s just the norm. Women have the qualities that just lend themselves to be leaders in our industry. I tell women, “You want to be a minority, frankly, because you’re going to stand out.” In the end, that’s a good thing—that’s a positive thing.
I think the greatest reward is that we’re still here. I have 160-odd folks that I take care of, and I take that very personally. What’s exciting is that I’m now relinquishing a little bit of that authority to senior management, which is a pretty diverse group; they’re not all builders. I think that’ll be the long-lasting win: We get those guys up to speed, and then we’re around for however long it works. Whatever the big-picture plan is, it’s been a ride so far.