March 1, 2023

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Women Who Shaped Construction

Historically, women have made up a small portion of the construction industry’s workforce, but those numbers are growing. Learn about three important women who made a lasting impact in the field, inspiring other women to pursue a career in construction. 


While much of Julia’s work can still be seen today, one of her most impressive accomplishments was being the first woman admitted to the Beaux-Arts de Paris, regarded as the best school of architecture in the world at the time. After graduating, she would go on to become the first licensed female architect in California, opening up doors for women in architecture. Throughout her work, she was an advocate for the Arts and Crafts movement which was shown in her design style.

In her career as an architect, she designed over 700 buildings, some of which were YWCA buildings and the Hearst Castle, known for its impressive and ornate design, often defined as Mediterranean Revival. Today, Hearst Castle is a National Historic Landmark, attracting more than 750,000 visitors per year. 


Emily Roebling came from a family with a background in construction and community involvement that traces all the way back to the Mayflower. She possessed a driven mentality as a socialite, businesswoman, and builder which benefitted her greatly on the Brooklyn Bridge Project, where she would take on an unexpected role.

The construction process for this bridge was lengthy and complex, and it became even more complicated when her husband – the Chief Engineer – grew dangerously ill. With her broad set of skills, she unofficially took over his position. While there, she oversaw the entire project, from daily worksite visits to high-level project management. She also stood in place of her husband at social events – likely a tough position to be in as a woman at the time. The impressive bridge was completed in 1883, where it stands today with a plaque honoring her and her husband. 


Edith Clarke accomplished many ‘firsts’ throughout her career, all of which helped to advance women’s education and opportunities in the electrical engineering community. After finding her passion while working as a computer assistant (sometimes referred to as “human computers”) at AT&T, she enrolled at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was here that she became the first woman to graduate with a master’s in electrical engineering.

But that was just the start for Edith. In one of her first post-grad jobs, she patented the first graphical calculator to simplify the work of electrical engineers. She was also the first woman to be employed as an electrical engineer in the U.S. Edith was a full-time professor in her field (at MIT, nonetheless) and a full voting member of IEEE. If anyone inspires us to chase the unknown, it’s Edith Clarke.

Together, these incredible women have made a huge impact on the construction industry – and the world. These three are just a few of  many women inspiring a new generation of trade professionals. We encourage anyone who is considering a career in construction to pursue their dream. You never know what you’ll achieve – and who knows, you could become one of the greats.

The Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation‘s Construction Workforce Initiative, Build Your Future Arizona’s mission is to create a sustainable and skilled craft workforce by creating awareness about high-paying construction careers, training opportunities and mapping career paths to employment in these high-demand occupations.