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Important Conversations: Women in Construction (Lauren Thibodeaux)

07 March 2022

By Taylor Gilliam & Lauren Thibodeaux

Since the company’s founding over 65 years ago, and even more so under the leadership of third-generation CEO Anne Teague, Landis has been committed to increasing diversity and representation in our industry. As an officially certified Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) firm (representing the most widely recognized and respected national certification for women-owned businesses in the U.S.), we love seeking out new opportunities and partnerships to open doors for women in construction.

While more women are entering into the field each year, recent data shows they are still incredibly underrepresented, making up less than 11% of all construction professionals nationwide. An even greater disparity is the number of women on the front lines of a job site—only 1 for every 100 employees in the field. Considering that women make up 47% of all employed individuals, this means that the construction industry is only benefitting from about 1.25% of women in the workforce.

This Women in Construction Week, I sat down with, or followed around on-site, a few of the wonderful women who work at Landis to learn more about their personal and professional experiences as women in a largely male-dominated field. In return, I also got to hear what it’s like for them to work for a woman-owned construction company and be inspired by their hopes for the future of women in construction. With this first piece, Landis Construction presents “Important Conversations: Women in Construction.”

Lauren Thibodeaux, Assistant Project Manager

With the company since: 2011
Previous role: Project Engineer

I met with Lauren on the job site where she spends her days overseeing, coordinating, and carrying out the duties of an Assistant PM at the Hotel Monteleone - Iberville Tower Renovation, which Landis began in early 2021 and plans to complete within the next year.

Lauren guided me through the entire site, each floor at varying stages of progress, and answered my questions, beaming with pride as she talked about the work she obviously loves.

What are you working on right now?
LT: I’m currently working on the Monteleone Iberville Tower Renovation. We’re completely gutting twelve floors of guestrooms in one of the towers at Hotel Monteleone and building back 208 new guestrooms and suites. We also completely renovated one of the hotel’s ballrooms.

Tell us a little bit about your background and what made you want to go into construction.
LT: My degree is actually in Industrial Engineering. My dad was a project manager for a company that built large generator sets for off-shore oil rigs. I loved learning about what he did and that led me to engineering. Nearing graduation, I knew I wanted to stay in New Orleans and IE jobs were in short supply here. One of the major themes of engineering is problem-solving which can be applied to all fields. While I wasn’t familiar with construction, I recognized that I already had some of the skills needed for Project Management and the ambition to learn anything else.

What has your experience been as a woman in a largely male-dominated industry?
LT: I’ve been lucky in my career that I can’t think of a time in which being a woman held me back. In general, most of the men I’ve worked with have treated me with respect because I also treat them with respect. I know that I am not a licensed electrician, for example; if an electrician comes to me with a problem, I hear them out. More than likely, they’ve been doing this much longer than I have in their specialized trade, so I want to learn from them. It creates a good working relationship where we help each other solve the problem at hand. In my experience, respect is much more important than gender.

What made you choose Landis when you joined the company in 2011?
LT: During Construction Interview Day, I interviewed with three construction companies. Christian Generes and Kyle Condon did my Landis interview. They were the only ones that didn’t ask “why” I applied. They asked how my engineering degree could translate over to construction. I went through two more rounds of interviews and loved everyone that I interacted with. I knew I wanted to work for a smaller company that I could grow with. I wasn’t interested in changing jobs every couple years.

How has the work changed since then? And how have you changed?
LT: I started at Landis straight out of college with little working experience. I lived at home with my parents. Over the last 10 ½ years, I’ve gotten married, bought a house, and had a baby. Landis has been my second family through all of those stages. I’ve also been able to watch Landis evolve. Since I started, the next generation has taken over. As a company, we’ve adapted to the emerging technology and embraced new ideas like Lean Construction. It can be hard to change things in construction, but I feel like continuous improvement is a top priority at Landis.

Do you feel your experience has been different working for a woman-owned construction company?
LT: Working for a family-owned, and now woman-owned, company has always made me feel like I’m part of that family. We have a lot of strong women at Landis. I worked with Sarah Busch a lot when I first started. Seeing the respect everyone had for her served as such a great motivator for me. Watching Anne Teague Landis take over the company was the best reminder that women can do anything. They both worked to get where they are and were raising families at the same time. The culture at Landis promotes work/life balance. Obviously, it’s a business. Employees have to work. The company has to make money. But they also know that your home life is important. Landis supports employees in simple ways like hosting wedding/baby showers for employees and in big ways like paid maternity/paternity leave.

Being able to say I helped build this building is such a source of pride.

Tell us about some of your favorite past projects at Landis. What about them were you most proud of?
LT: My first project was renovating the Windsor Court Hotel. (It was fun to come full circle and to be working on another hotel on my ten-year anniversary!) I knew very little about construction, but I was on-site full time. That gave me the opportunity to ask questions. I got to know the foremen of all of our trade partners, and I walked with them every day, learning everything I could learn. The transformation in myself from the beginning of the project to the end was something I’m still proud of.
Another favorite project was Loft18. It is a virtual golf facility, restaurant, and bar in Metairie. It was a new build-out of the ground and had so many different structural elements that I had never worked with. The coordination for the virtual golf was also a fun (and frustrating) challenge. It’s always exciting to complete a project that friends and family will use. We’ve been back to Loft18 many times. Being able to say I helped build this building is such a source of pride.

Do you think it’s important for women to work in construction?
LT: In short, yes. The women who came before me at Landis have paved the way for us, but we still have a long way to go. Women think and work differently, and having that added perspective can only help improve the industry overall. Collaboration and respect for people is not gender-specific, and there are plenty of women that can offer so much to all STEM fields. Construction is just one part of that.

What advice would you give to other young women considering a career in the construction industry? And in the “Field”?
LT: Jump in! Learn everything you can in college or trade school, but know that in any career you are never done learning. Being out in the field is the best place for learning early in your career. There is no such thing as a stupid question, and if someone makes you feel bad for learning, find someone else to learn from.

Lauren is a worthy representative of the many women at Landis and in the construction field, and we're honored for the opportunity to know and work alongside them each day. Happy Women in Construction Week!

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