When Laurie Bush began working in the equipment rental industry 27 years ago, she recalls only two other females with similar roles. Today, as a 12-year Sales Professional for RDO Equipment Co. in Austin, she says it’s becoming more common to see women in the industry. And she’s not alone in that observation.
According to OSHA, the number of women employed in the construction industry grew 81.3% from 1985 to 2007. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the need for construction managers is projected to grow steadily into 2024, resulting in the need for operators, service technicians, equipment sales, parts specialists, administrative support, and other related positions.
Leading the Way
As one of the country’s largest networks of equipment dealerships, RDO Equipment Co. certainly falls within the realm of a male-dominated industry, but is also one that is gender-diversified at all levels. Christi Offutt, Chief Executive Officer has been in various executive leadership positions for nearly 15 years. And across the company, everything from C-Suite to executive to director positions are held by females.
The diversity can be seen throughout RDO Equipment Co.’s 77 stores across 10 states as well. One area that has benefited from a diversified work force is RDO Equipment Co.’s Texas region, which boasts females in several types of positions, and is an example of the growing opportunities, potential, and place women have the in the construction equipment industry.
What’s Bringing in Women
Like Bush and several of her colleagues, more and more women are trading office attire and computers for work boots and the roar of equipment.
“It’s a great field,” Bush says of the construction industry. “And it’s no longer just a man’s world. Operators, project managers, presidents of companies; there continues to be more opportunities for women in this growing industry.”
While a very small percentage of the construction industry’s labor positions are held by females – estimated to be less than 1% of the total workforce – there are many other ways women can get into this growing field, as Kim Tyrpak found out five years ago.
Now a Rental Sales Professional in Austin, Tyrpak came from the publishing industry and saw working for RDO Equipment Co. as an opportunity to do something different and challenging. Today, she’s RDO Equipment Co.’s only female rental rep in the state of Texas and one of the top performers. She says one of the best parts of her job is also one of the most challenging – finding new business and customers.
“In Texas, there’s so much going on in construction and new companies coming here all the time,” she said. “I love that my job is all about meeting new people and finding new avenues for business. It’s a rush.”
In addition to different types of jobs, the opportunities to be successful long-term are drawing more women to equipment.
Why Are Women Staying
Not only is there job security with construction activity expected to expand, there are opportunities to grow professionally as well.
When Shawna Garza began working in a hardware store as a teenager, she had no idea it would be the start of a successful career that would lead to a management-level role.
Garza began working at RDO Equipment Co. in 2005 as a Service Administrator in Fort Worth. Soon after, an opportunity came to move into a sales role. While she enjoyed her time in sales, Garza realized her true passion and wanted to be back on the service side of the business.
“Working in service, you have to enjoy being the solution to someone’s problem,” she explained. “And that’s what I love.”
She was able to take on a new role of Service Advisor and shortly after, promoted to Service Manager for RDO Equipment Co. in Fort Worth. Today she does what she enjoys most and manages a team of about 30 that includes service advisors, service technicians, and interns.
While Garza’s drive to learn and be challenged has certainly helped her move up throughout the years, she’s quick to share credit for her success with her management team and colleagues.
What It’s Like Being a Woman in the Industry
One of the reasons females still make up only 9.3% of the construction industry is the perceived work environment. It’s a long-standing stereotype that women in construction face challenges like doubt, discrimination, and harassment. While some of the women at RDO Equipment Co. admit it wasn’t easy and recall instances of this early-on in their careers, all agree that male vs. female has no place in their environment today.
“I was nervous at first but now, I don’t even notice,” Tyrpak said when asked what it’s like working in a male-dominated industry. Coming into her rental sales position with no previous experience in the equipment industry, Tyrpak was prepared to have to prove herself. However, she has been quick to earn respect, from both colleagues and customers, with her approach of ongoing learning, honesty, and building trust.
Bush echoes Tyrpak’s approach, recalling a few times early on in her career where she felt tested by male customers. Her response? Honesty.
“If I didn’t know an answer, I’d tell them I didn’t know. But, I’d find out and get them the right information. That goes a long way to earning trust, business and, ultimately, respect.”
That approach is one she has stuck with because she feels, regardless of male or female, sales professionals always need to earn their business, it’s never a given.
Susan Harrod, Field Service Advisor with RDO Equipment Co. in Austin, spends most of her time scheduling technicians and confirming service work with customers. When asked what it’s like working in a male-dominated industry, she said, “It’s funny, there are times I completely forget about it, then there are other times I’ve felt I had to work harder to prove myself.”
She further explained that some men are used to dealing with other men, especially in the service department. But, “I find that once they talk to me for a bit and they realize I’m able to help them out, they’re great,” she said.
Beyond helping customers, one of the ways she has been able to help other females transition into the industry and earn trust of male colleagues is her involvement in training. Because the computer systems she works with in her role are crucial to most positions at RDO Equipment Co. stores, she’s involved in training virtually every new team member.
“I take time with them and show them the system, but I also let them know I’m here to help in the future,” she said. “That resonates well and people remember that.”
To learn more about career opportunities with RDO Equipment Co. visit www.rdoequipment.com or contact the store nearest you.