Courtesy of Lindsey Peruto
- Lindsey Peruto is a construction project manager in Philadelphia. She’s often the only woman there.
- She’s had men comment on her looks and say she belongs in the kitchen, but that hasn’t stopped her.
- “Microagressions aside, I love my career,” she says. “I’d definitely recommend it to other women.”
This as-told-to essay is based on a converastion with Lindsey Peruto, a construction project manager in Philadelphia. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I was studying architecture in college and really liked it, but wasn’t completely in love with the profession. Then, about three years into the program, a professor of mine mentioned construction management. I looked further into it and never looked back.
It’s no secret that construction is a male-dominated field. On rare occasions, there’ll be another woman in my meetings (usually an owner’s representative), but for the majority of the time, I’m literally the only one on-site.
As project manager, I oversee all the logistics of the construction of large buildings
That means creating schedules, ordering materials, delegating work, and everything else that ensures a job is completed on time and within budget.
It’s an important role, and workers often comment and act surprised at “how well I know my stuff,” which presumes that women don’t know much about construction. I had a male coworker who would constantly interrupt my meetings and try to take over — again, as if women don’t know as much as men.
We would order lunch for the site workers a few times a year, and the project executive would always ask me to plan the luncheon and place the order. The same project executive would also have me complete office tasks for him, such as copying. Even though there was another person in my same position on-site, a male, I was always expected to do the secretarial work.
I dress more conservatively than I might if I worked in a typical office setting with more women
I wouldn’t wear dresses or skirts anyway, for safety reasons, and I don’t wear low-cut shirts or anything that would draw attention to my body.
Even in baggy pants and boots, I’ve gotten hit on, and guys on the job site will stare at me as I walk by. Some make it obvious. Others, you could just feel them watching you. It used to make me uncomfortable, but I eventually got used to it.
I’ve had guys comment on my weight, my hair color, my clothing, and other aspects of my appearance
Over the years, I learned to ignore it. I remind myself they just aren’t used to seeing a woman on construction sites.
I’ve had male coworkers make inappropriate remarks at work, but rather than filing a formal HR complaint — which would have been an option — I simply asked not to work with those people on the next project. I didn’t want HR to talk to them, for I feared that I would lose my job or create an even more uncomfortable working environment.
One time, my boss made me lay off a guy at the end of the day
It was in the early days of my career. I was just out of college, and I felt terrible doing this. As I handed him the envelope, I told him it was his last paycheck, because that’s what you do with union workers.
He looked at me and said: “You should be at home cooking and cleaning like my wife.” Needless to say, I didn’t feel bad laying him off after that comment.
Microagressions aside, I love my career
I’d definitely recommend it to other women. It’s not a typical office job, and while it can be stressful, it’s very exciting and far from mundane.
Yes, it’s still a male-dominated field, but rather than letting that intimidate me, I’ve allowed it to fuel me. The last company I worked for was a local, family-owned company. They immediately recognized my potential and gave me my own project to manage, and this really boosted my confidence and made me feel as if I was treated equally.
Before this, I’ve had to work a little harder and really prove that I could be as successful as the men in my field. It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s the way it is and I don’t see that ever changing.