Event encourages young females to ‘build like a girl’ with hands-on activities in construction

Many people think of careers in construction as jobs for men, but a free local workshop is helping to shift that perspective. The ‘Build like a Girl’ event, hosted by the Associated Builders & Contractors Greater Michigan Chapter, invites fifth through twelfth-grade female students to attend. The event includes hands-on activities, demos, education, resources, and workshops at The Great Hall (5121 Bay City Road) in Midland on Tuesday, Feb. 27 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Cathy Geiger is the marketing and community affairs director for the Associated Builders & Contractor (ABC) Greater Michigan Chapter. The organization’s mission is to provide education, current industry resources, and legislative representation. 

“We are a membership organization for the construction industry who live and breathe the merit shop philosophy and free enterprise,” Geiger says. 

Girls get a hands-on experience at "Build Like A Girl."The local chapter hosts more than 30 events a year, including safety academies, business development events, golf outings, and award presentations. This year marks the third year of the ‘Build like a Girl’ event, which was previously named Power Up.

The free event, sponsored by the Greater Michigan Construction Academy and Ladies Operating for Growth in Construction, aims to introduce girls to careers and professional opportunities in the construction industry.

“This was designed for girls to really help them empower themselves and step into roles that will educate them on careers in the construction industry,” Geiger says. “Maybe they haven’t thought about that career path because they may think it’s a job for boys. We want to show girls that we are creating an inclusive environment for them, and there are so many opportunities to advance in their careers, no matter what path they want to take.”

Students can participate in hands-on demos, hear from local employers and influential women in the trade, ask questions, and gain confidence. Some of the activities include robots from Dow, electrical activities with Windemuller, an interactive scaffold build with Niles Plant Services, and more. 
Women working in construction share their experiences.
“It’s going to be a great time to learn about all kinds of careers,” Geiger says. “They’ll be able to face-to-face with employers to ask questions, and try things out with their hands too.”

New this year is a free mini workshop hosted by Lisa Tarkington, founder of Self Love Beauty. The workshop is on confidence, and encouragement for girls entering a male-dominated field. Attendees will be given helpful tips on self-love and positive self-talk to use in their daily lives. 

“Not only is this workshop great for girls in attendance, but also their moms, their dads, and their guardians that come with them,” Geiger says. “We all need to learn how to gain more confidence in our professional and personal lives.”

In addition to the hands-on zone with contractors and suppliers, and a panel of successful industry women, is a new zone this year. The confidence zone will include resources and education on scholarships, apprenticeships, school pathways, and more. 

The free event aims to introduce girls to careers and professional opportunities in the construction industry.
Last year’s event had about 140 girls in attendance, over 200 people total including guardians and about 25 booths. Geiger enjoyed hearing about attendees’ reactions via the post-event survey. She says 87% of the 2023 ‘Build like a Girl’ attendees felt more familiar with construction job opportunities. This year’s event is slated to be bigger, with 150 girls registered so far. 

“By having an event like this with companies participating, it’s really creating an environment where not only girls, but also women who may want to make a career change into their life, are learning that they are supported, they can succeed and grow in the industry,” Geiger says. “By creating an inclusive environment, we’re hoping that we will organically start to attract more females to the industry so that we can have a gender balance.”

Companies interested in hosting a free booth can sign up online. Parents/guardians can register their students online to attend the free event. 

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Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at sarahspohn.news@gmail.com.