Taking advantage of gender
Since Klemaske works in decorative concrete, she feels being female is an advantage.
"I think I have one of the best jobs there is," she says. "I get to work with really creative interesting people on great projects. Whenever I start with a project, I stay involved all the way through to the end."
Clients meet with her first to select their materials and designs. She maintains that relationship by visiting jobsites and staying in touch with the project manager and superintendent to be sure the client's expectations are met.
Hollingsworth took over her company in 1992 when her business partner died. At first, she kept the management change quiet.
"Honestly, my philosophy was not to tell anybody I was running this company," she says. "My contractor companies for a long time really didn't know. When my oldest daughter came onboard, she said, 'We've got to shout this from the rooftop.' She started working with a lot of the construction associations here in Houston and took the lead in promoting us as a woman-owned business." Now her daughter, Darlene Aitken, is company president while her other daughter, Kellie Vasquez, manages human resources and marketing.
Hollingsworth is the first female president of the Concrete Sawing and Drilling Association, which is active in promoting safety and training. She said the group has always been very supportive of her.
"At every meeting I go to, I learn something from somebody that I can bring back which helps me make this company better," she says.
Roughneck is certified as a woman-owned business and that fact is included on its trucks, in its ads and in every way it markets its services.
"It has helped open doors for me for opportunities for work," Johnson notes.
A good career for women
All three women agree that the concrete industry is a good field for women and would encourage others to get involved. At the same time, like any business, getting started may not be easy.
"There's a lot of sacrifices you have to be willing to make," Johnson points out. "You have to be sure you're willing to follow through, but stick with it. You're going to find bumps in the road and fall down, so you have to pick yourself up and keep going. I think it pays off over time. In general, it has gotten harder to be a business owner, especially a small business owner, because you have to be more sophisticated today. There are so many things that have changed. You really have to be on top of your game and stay ahead of the changing times or you're going to be passed by."
However, she believes by giving customers good, reliable service as her company does, success is achievable.
Klemaske says women who are thinking about the field should get in on the ground floor at a concrete construction company and learn everything they can about how concrete is made and installed. They should look at the different types of jobs available, many of which, like project managers and estimators, come with good salaries and don't involve placing concrete.
"It's a great occupation," she says. "It's really something that's challenging and enjoyable. It's not age restricted. It's something that you can grow old and continue to do."
However, because each field person works alone, Holes Incorporated has not been successful in hiring women for these hands-on positions and points out the facility problems at jobsites like the lack of bathrooms.
"Construction will have to be more adaptive to attract more women," she notes. "The other problem with construction is you don't have a predictable day or shift. And that's very hard on women, especially if they have children."
Hollingsworth is concerned that the current shortage of tradespeople will become worse because so many workers are nearing retirement and too few new workers are replacing them. She'd like to see more emphasis on encouraging students to attend craft and trade schools.