The number of women in the construction equipment industry has hit a record high, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thanks to the perseverance of women who enjoy the rewards of the profession and the support of those who work with them.
Women in equipment have entered the profession from different routes. Some worked in adjacent industries such as automotive while others have known people in equipment and encouraged them to pursue their interest. Kerri Courier, Regional Aftermarket Manager at RDO Equipment Co., joined the construction industry seven years ago after she had spent 10 years in the automotive industry.
“Construction was a huge leap for me. I knew I could continue to grow my skills communicating with people and managing projects, but there was a huge learning curve,” Kerri said.
Even with the learning curve, Kerri was able to advance in her career and continues to receive support and encouragement from her supervisor and team members. Early on, an RDO General Manager encouraged her to grow into her current leadership role. Kerri’s experience isn’t unique, but it does illustrate a key point to women succeeding in male-dominated industries: having a champion. Research shows that having a mentor to help guide and coach a team member is important but having a champion makes the difference in terms of professional advancement.
This same person also put Kerri forward to represent RDO at the Association of Equipment Dealers’ Women in Equipment conference, which she and eight other RDO team members attended during the fall of 2022.
“The focus of the event was to help women leaders understand their unique strengths as well as barriers to success, grow their leadership skills, interact with other women professionals to grow our network, and increase the visibility of women in the construction industry,” Kerri explained.
Again, Kerri’s experience also illustrates the importance of having a strong network. Being connected to other women in the industry can provide powerful support and problem-solving.
“As a woman, myself, and most of the other women I have spoken to have dealt with at least someone who dismisses what we are saying, simply because we are women,” shared Rosemary Rodarte, RDO Equipment Co. Service Manager, who also attended the AED Women in Equipment conference.
“Having a group of women to lean on helps me make sense of those situations and put it in perspective,” said Rosemary.
Kerri said the group not only benefited from connecting with each other, but also listening to AED’s Women in Equipment speakers, and goal setting sessions.
“It was incredibly inspiring to connect with other women who face the same challenges that I do and to get to know their struggles and celebrate their wins,” she said. “It helped give me confidence in knowing my value and what I bring to the table.”
Rosemary also attended the conference after receiving encouragement from her General Manager Brandon Kyse.
“I was excited to hear about the conference because it is important to feel seen, heard, and understood in the industry as a woman. And as a woman of color, I was really thrilled to learn the keynote speaker was Cassi Chandler, the FBI’s first African American female Special Agent Assistant Director,” she said.
Another AED Women in Equipment attendee, Lead Parts Specialist Juanita Olsen said this conference and her time at RDO emphasized the importance of communication.
“My biggest takeaway was Rena Cooks workshop on empowering your authentic voice and effective communication,” Juanita said. “My time here at RDO has taught me how important communication is and how most issues arise from either lack of communication or miscommunication."
Rosemary also emphasized the importance of representation for all team members, which brings up another key factor to women succeeding in male-dominated industries: finding role models. Research shows that seeing other women succeeding can serve as a source of inspiration and motivation.
This motivation to connect and learn from other women in the equipment industry underlined how women continue to grow in the industry.
“The one thing we didn’t realize is you just don’t know the impact that you have,” Kerri said. “It’s important to be visible and break down stereotypes, and there is just a ton of opportunity in this business. It really is the best job.”
Rosemary shared, “It is so important that we approach each conversation with an open heart and mind. Too often we are so guarded and jaded. The world can be that way sometimes and we forget the other side of the coin – all the beauty that the world and the people in it hold. Think of the value you can bring by mentoring another person.”
Beyond encouraging women to participate in industry events, RDO also has a women’s employee resource group for team members at the company’s field support office in Fargo, ND. More than a third of all women at the office participate in the program designed to help educate and empower women at all stages of their careers.
Rosemary and Kerri will continue to work with women in equipment all over the U.S. In fact, they recently attended AED’s Summit in Chicago, Illinois to begin preparation for the next Women in Equipment conference.