(BPT) – As multiple industries still face workplace shortages, one solution is emerging, especially in traditionally male-dominated fields like construction: recruit more women. According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationwide, the number of women in construction has hit an all-time high, with women now making up 11% of the construction industry. Although that’s historically a record high, business owners like 84 Lumber’s Owner and President Maggie Hardy aim to do better.
“Building a culture that nurtures the talents of younger workers and seasoned associates, to put them on the track of success, is one of the most important things to retain talent,” explained Hardy. “If you’re seeking a career transition, whether from the hospitality industry, the military, or something else, our company doesn’t require any prior experience. We can train you on everything you need to know, and our ‘promote from within’ culture provides growth opportunities that can’t be found elsewhere.”
Building on a legacy
After taking on leadership from her father at age 26, Hardy focused on the professional market, helping 84 Lumber top $1 billion in sales for the first time in 1993, and now over $8.7 billion in 2022. She balances the company’s traditional approach to doing business with adapting to ever-changing customer needs. Today, the company is a certified National Women’s Business Enterprise and the largest privately owned building materials supplier in the U.S., with 310 facilities, including component manufacturing plants, custom door shops, and millwork shops plus engineered wood product centers in over 35 states — also offering turnkey installation services for a variety of products including framing, insulation, siding, windows, roofing, decking and drywall.
Under Hardy’s leadership, 84 Lumber was named one of America’s largest companies by Forbes and made the Inc. 5000 list of America’s Fastest Growing Companies of 2022. That growth has required active recruiting and training of employees from all walks of life to fill a variety of roles.
“We have an on-site training center dedicated to training and development of associates,” said Hardy. “We teach associates the construction and building materials industry and store operations. We have online, self-paced learning tools to help with product knowledge and learning the roles. It’s an important piece of the puzzle for attracting and retaining top-tier associates.”
Growing business by nurturing talent
Many women in the field didn’t consider construction as a vehicle for career success but have since changed their minds, like store co-manager Shannon LaMonte. “I come from a family of contractors,” explained LaMonte. “But I never thought to pursue a career in construction, mostly because it was intimidating. 84 Lumber has given me all the tools to be successful in something I’ve always wanted to be part of.”
Others started in one aspect of the business, only to learn there were more opportunities outside traditional roles. “At 18, I began working for a lumber yard as a cashier. I found the atmosphere energetic and exciting,” recalled Niki Flynn, now in outside sales. “I started at 84 Lumber 17 years ago as a coordinator and drove myself to learn all aspects of the company.”
Women in the industry encourage others to try something new — because you may be surprised at your own abilities. “84 Lumber allowed me to expand my knowledge with multiple positions,” said Plant Manager Polly Jean (PJ) Miller. “Don’t be intimidated by work in the construction field. If it’s something that truly interests you, don’t be scared to step up and learn.”
A uniquely satisfying career
Kristi Allen, owner of WoodCastle Homes and one of the trailblazers behind The House That She Built, cites the skills women bring to construction, and how rewarding the field can be.
“We tend to be detail-oriented and organized, which are extremely important skills in building a home,” Allen explained. “Many women, including myself, have been able to carve out a niche for themselves in construction that allows them to succeed professionally and personally. My job as a general contractor allows me to do the thing I love, which is building homes for families.”
To keep up with growth, 84 Lumber is hiring new associates in stores and manufacturing facilities nationwide. Visit 84Lumber.com/careers to apply, and learn more about the company on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.