Diversity & Inclusion Can Bring Operators to the Industry

Caterpillar celebrates female operators at first-ever event.

The panelists on Day 1
The panelists on Day 1
Lori Ditoro

As the industry navigates the continuing workforce shortage, looking to untapped demographics may help add operators and other personnel to the jobsite. In Clayton, North Carolina, at its Edward J. Rapp Customer & Training Center, Caterpillar celebrated women operators in the construction industry. Our team was thrilled to be there to share two days of learning, networking and equipment operation.

Operator Panel

On Day 1, several of the operators took to the stage for a panel discussion. These women discussed everything from how they entered the construction industry, any challenges they faced and what they love best about their jobs.

Many of the women started in construction because of the influence of family members who were working on jobsites, including Kenzi Tackett. Tackett had several family members who worked in construction. However, she was the only woman from her family in the industry and started her work while still in high school.

Left to right: Small hydraulic excavator winner Azaria Biven, overall winner and wheel loader winner Kait Burds, and compact track loader winner Kenzi TacketteLeft to right: Small hydraulic excavator winner Azaria Biven, overall winner and wheel loader winner Kait Burds, and compact track loader winner Kenzi TacketteLori DitoroTackett works for Beaver Excavating in Canton, Ohio. “I’ve worked in landfills mostly, building the cells to hold waste, but they do a variety of work from small jobs like substation pads to highways and schools,” Tackett said.

Learn more about Tackett and her experience in this Q&A.

Al Little with Milton Cat in New England began working with her father and has been in her role for 10 years. She had not seen women working in the industry and said that seeing women in these roles helps and builds a community.

Some of the challenges that several of the panelists said they faced included:

  • A lack of mentorship: Belittlement versus education and support
  • The pressure to be perfect and not make mistakes or do more because they are women
  • Handling nasty comments from coworkers
  • Maternity leave isn’t paid
  • Proving to other women that they can also do it

The Competition

On Day 2, 18 women competed in three skills tests. The skills tests were:

  • Rock & Roll: Small wheel loader (the winner was Kait Burds)
  • Hammer Time: Compact track loader (the winner was Kenzi Tackette)
  • Tons of Fun: Small hydraulic excavator (the winner was Azaria Biven)

The overall winner, Kait Burds, has been in the industry for several years. She also won the wheel loader competition.

“I feel really good; the competition was pretty stiff. It’s a good affirmation of the hard work I put into my career,” said Burds.

You can learn more about Burds’ journey from this podcast. Learn more about the event from this article on ForConstructionPros.com.