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Women Executives in Building – When “Being the Only” is Its Own Superpower
Women Executives in Building – When “Being the Only” is Its Own Superpower
Posted By Christine Cube

Initially, Michelle Buczkowski considered “being the only” an isolating place.

Buczkowski, vice president of talent management with 84 Lumber, shared during the virtual leadership meeting of the Women Executives in Building on August 31, that many times she felt like the youngest – and only – woman in a room.

“For a while I saw ‘being the only’ as a lonely place,” Buczkowski said. “[Later] all the things that made me ‘the only’ became my superpower.”

The executives in the National Institute of Building Sciences Women Executives in Building meeting understood this. The built environment is a mostly male-dominated profession.

Cindy O’Malley, chief operating officer with the Association for Materials Protection and Performance, added: “Think of the opportunities you took and the fear you had. A lot of what you’re told is: ‘Why did you do that? You were on a good path.’ It’s the expected paths vs. fear of the unknown.”

Construction Specifications Institute Chief Operating Officer Velma Hart said practicing self-care and self-growth is important.

“[This] is something I learned late in life and now I have to remind myself almost daily,” Hart said. “I am more powerful individually, and my circle is more powerful collectively. I’m intentional, and I forge forward.

Women Who Blaze the Trail

The first Women Executives in Building Summit was held in October 2019. Through the pandemic, leaders have come together quarterly to join NIBS for the virtual leadership series.

In these challenging and unprecedented times, women executives in the built environment must come together, support each other and share thoughts and ideas on how they are providing value. Many of these leaders work from home, while managing and keeping teams inspired and motivated. All this while running households, home schooling children, and trying to maintain mental health.

Women in the c-suite of the built environment are invited to join these quarterly Zoom calls.

“One is a powerful number, whether you’re the only one or the first,” said Miriam Keith, president with Kayleb Consulting, LLC. “Both can have significant impact.”

NIBS CEO Lakisha A. Woods, CAE, said it’s important to support women and develop them as leaders in the building industry.

“You bring strength to your role,” Woods said. “When you are ‘the only,’ it’s important to showcase your success and advocate for other women to grow within the company.”

Keep These Tips Handy

The Women Executives in Building shared many tips about managing professional life. They include:

  • Do not fall into the role of validator or accepting everything. (This is easier said than done, and it may come with consequences.)
  • People choose how to react to you. Their response is not your responsibility.
  • Make that change and go out on that limb. You’ll live to fight another day.
  • Keep up with professional networks like NIBS for support and guidance.
  • Build a personal board of directors – you need coaches, mentors and advocates in your circle.
  • Be an advocate for all women: Blow the whistle if someone’s being “talked over.”

The next Women Executives in Building virtual meeting is being planned for this winter. Visit for more information.

Women Executives in Building