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Early in Judy Dinelle’s career, she pursued semi-professional softball. For many reasons, Dinelle walked away from that path, but among her reasons: She knew she wasn’t going to make a good living.
Today, Dinelle serves as the building ambassador for 84 Lumber Company, a woman-owned and -operated building materials supply company. Based in Eighty Four, Pennsylvania, 84 Lumber manages 250 stores in 31 states and employs 5,700 people.
Dinelle recently spoke with a host of built environment C-suite members about mentorship, during a Women Executives in Building virtual leadership meeting. She mentioned her greatest mentor was her mother, who spent 50 years working for the same company.
“A lot of my story has to do with the team concept because of the athlete I am,” she said. “Whether you’re a young lady or a young man coming into this industry. Dream big. Work hard. Stay focused and surround yourself with good people. Teams function best when they have a shared purpose.”
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 10% of the construction workforce — 1.1 million women, compared with 9.9 million men.
“We need to get that number up,” Dinelle said.
Dinelle’s start in construction began with framing homes.
“I walked steel, and we built them from the bottom up,” Dinelle said. “It was very much a learning experience to become a tradesperson and to build the American dream of a house.”
While framing a house, Dinelle remembers that women walking their kids to school would stop and ask, “Can you teach us how to do that?”
Dinelle found their interest fascinating.
“They only wanted the education,” she said. “How many times do you find that? Nowadays, it’s money and then the education.”
The stigma of being a woman in construction is something every CEO with the Women Executives in Building virtual leadership series identifies with.
Dinelle would hear it in her early years on the jobsite, when builders and contractors would be directed to speak with her. She would hear her crew members say, “You need to talk with the boss lady.”
And while this would confuse some men who weren’t expecting to meet with a woman on a jobsite at that time, Dinelle treated everyone the same.
“We’re all players on a team,” she said, using a sports analogy. “We all know what our positions are. We all know how to play as one. We’re all stakeholders to see our goals become reality. And we need to get more women in our industry.”
The next Women Executives in Building virtual leadership meeting is being planned for 2021. Meetings are open to all female C-Suite executives in the building industry, from association executives to women–owned and operated trade businesses. For more information or to join the next meeting, please visit Women Executives in Building: Virtual Leadership Series - National Institute of Building Sciences (nibs.org).