March 08, 2019

WIC Week 2019: Katie Gonzales



What led you to a career in the construction industry?

My love for bridges originally led me to pursue a Structural Engineering degree. When I learned that Penn State had an Architectural Engineering degree focused solely on engineering for buildings, I knew I had found the right place. After my third year of school pursuing the structural option of Architectural Engineering (AE), I landed an internship with a local general contractor building a hospital expansion. The daily hustle of working on the jobsite eventually convinced me to change my focus to the Construction Management option of AE.

What are some of the biggest challenges of being a woman working in construction?

It is my understanding that acceptance of women in this field has improved significantly over time in this male dominated industry. Sometimes men confuse me for an assistant or secretary, but those have been easy to correct the misunderstanding and establish clear responsibilities. Additionally, as a woman, when I walk the jobsite I am noticed more than other men walking the job. With this heightened awareness of my movements, I sometimes choose to blatantly acknowledge the stares by waving or by ignoring them completely and continuing with my task.

Ultimately, my expectation when I join a project is to receive the same respect by all team members/subcontractors regardless of gender. Once that is established, it is easy for me to interact with any person on the job.

What do you love most about your career?

As an engineer/manager, my favorite aspect of this career is learning how to work with many different personalities daily and to convince them to all work toward a common goal. This involves solving problems daily that require technical skills related to building details and soft skills for negotiations and professional relationships. Every day presents a new challenge to solve which inherently lends itself to an exciting career.​

What advice would you give a woman starting out in the industry?

The best advice that I have received from other women that I continue to echo is to keep a thick skin. There will be days of high stress while working through major problems or project completion. With that in mind, it is important to also establish respect on any project and to hold other men accountable if they are taking advantage of a situation because of being a woman. ​​​