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Women in construction form local advice group

Recognizing the growth of women as direct or indirect participants in the local construction industry, two trade groups have teamed up to help create a new forum for women and “like-minded” construction professionals to share challenges they face and explore ideas for solutions.

The ad hoc group is designed to bring together women from across the construction industry, including owners of construction and contracting firms, employees, consultants, and service providers.

The new “Women in Construction” group will hold its “kickoff” reception on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. at the Impact Artists Gallery, inside the TriMain Building, at 2495 Main St. The free event and discussion are open to both men and women. Follow-up programs may be held in April and later in the year.

“Women are a quickly growing constituency among these companies and they face unique challenges succeeding in an industry that has been male-dominated for so long,” said a press release announcing the event.

The event was announced to nearly 700 guests at a Construction Exchange holiday event in December, and 141 people have already responded – triple what organizers expected. Anyone interested in attending can call (716) 874-3435.

The group was formed by female leaders of both the Construction Exchange of Buffalo and WNY and the Niagara Frontier Chapter of the Construction Financial Management Association, which together serve more than 750 companies that are active in the largely male-dominated industry.

“There are a lot more women in the industry than people are aware of,” said Karen Antonelli, a partner specializing in the construction industry at accounting firm Chiampou Travis Besaw & Kershner, and one of the 12 organizers from the two trade groups. “It’s still a very male-dominated room, and yet we know there are a lot more women business owners and women involved in the industry. There are a lot of opportunities and capacities for women now.”

The goal was to make sure the women were being adequately represented and helped by the groups in their business pursuits and careers.

“We thought it would be a good idea to have an event to try to bring together like-minded individuals and use it as a brain-storming session,” Antonelli said. “It really is a niche, so we wanted to see what else we could do to maybe improve upon some educational resources as well as find ways to cultivate people who are entering the industry. We would like to see this moving forward and based upon the responses and reactions, we think it will.”

The focus of the first event is “fact-finding,” to obtain feedback from women in the industry about their roles and challenges, and what they need to succeed. That could simply include networking. But they don’t want to duplicate any services already offered elsewhere.

Similar groups exist in Rochester and nationwide, but there’s no other women-focused construction organization in Buffalo.

“To gather all the supporters in the room, there’s great value in that,” said Nicole Savage, owner and president of Nature’s Way Environmental Consultants and Contractors Inc. in Alden. “Whether or not this becomes anything significant, just having a presence and identifying as women in construction is important in itself, regardless of how minimal the resources turn out to be that they ask for. The presence alone has a lot of value.”