Story and Photos by Tonya McGue
Three-year-old Olivia thinks her mom builds castles for a living. She also thinks it’s cool because she gets to wear a hard hat and boots when she goes to mommy’s castles.
Janet Bates’ daughter is not that far off. Janet is a key member of the leadership team at CF Evans Construction, a nationally recognized front runner in the multi-family housing construction industry. In other words, they build apartment homes, senior living facilities and student housing – huge, sprawling complexes with wrought-iron gates, swimming pools, park-like surroundings and multi-story buildings.
As Director of Marketing and Business Development, Janet is part of an elite group of women. Only 1.3 percent of the entire female workforce in the U.S. works in the construction industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the over 10 million workers in construction, only 9 percent of them are women, including onsite, administrative and management positions.
Janet is on a quest to change those statistics. She’s the president of the newly formed Palmetto Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC).
“We have to build a strong foundation to move forward,” Janet said. “One of NAWIC’s goals is to educate women about the opportunities in the construction industry. In addition to working on job sites, women can excel in sales, marketing, human resources and project management positions.”
Women in the U.S. earn on average 81.1 percent of what men make, but the pay gap is much less in the construction industry where women earn 95.7 percent of their male counterparts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Charleston area NAWIC chapter is off to a great start, already one of the largest chapters in the South Atlantic Region. Fifty women attended the first meeting on Sept. 25. LB Adams was the keynote speaker and talked about “Flipping the Script”, changing how women speak about themselves and about other women.
“The first meeting was so good!” Janet said. “Everyone was fired up. I was incredibly impressed with the members. Women in this industry are very powerful. They are all bad asses in the construction industry.”
Janet, a strong, independent woman, is perfect to lead the charge. She’s smart, enthusiastic and ambitious. “I don’t believe in doing anything halfway,” she said. Her purpose in life is to advocate and educate for women in construction and in general. “Women are half the population and we can do so much more than we’re doing now.”
Interestingly, Janet has a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Dramatic Literature. She’s been involved in theatre for 26 years as an actor, singer, producer and director in New York City and local productions. “While working in theatre, I did the whole part-time job thing, and found that I liked the jobs more. I like business, so I decided to go back to business school.”
After earning her MBA from UNC-Chapel Hill and doing a marketing internship at CF Evans, Janet was offered a full-time position at the firm and moved to Charleston in 2011.
She met her husband, Josh, an Air Force veteran and Emergency Manager at Roper St. Francis, through the local theatre community. They were married in 2014. Both are still very involved in the local performance scene. Josh is a stand-up comedian, actor and director. Janet helps as an assistant director from home. Their 12-year-old son, Elijah, is also an actor.
Janet said the transition from theatre to construction was an easy one. She often uses her public speaking skills for presentations and speaking engagements.
In addition to being president of the NAWIC chapter, she is a Board member for the Center for Women in Charleston. At the November 2018 fall conference, Janet will talk about age, race and gender diversity, an appropriate topic for her line of work.
Janet said she loves what she does. One of her favorite parts of the job is visiting construction sites. She wears her hard-toed boots and hardhat while talking to contractors, construction workers and the project management team. “I always feel very welcomed and respected,” she said.
Keep an eye on the number of women working in construction in the Lowcountry. By the time Olivia enters the workforce to make castles of her own, the stats may be a lot closer to equal, especially with Janet leading the charge.
Photo Credit:? Tonya McGue