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  • Writer's pictureJason Khoury

Women Who Build West Michigan: Elizabeth Bovard-Strong


Elizabeth Bovard-Strong

In the male-dominated field of construction, women like Elizabeth Bovard-Strong are paving the way for future generations. As the Executive Vice President of the Builders Exchange of Michigan, Bovard has spent over two decades promoting diversity and inclusion within the industry. Her passion lies in empowering underrepresented groups by providing them access to resources, training and strategic support.


Bovard's journey began with a curiosity for the building process itself and a desire to facilitate successful projects. However, she quickly recognized the challenges women face, such as sexist remarks, doubts about capabilities and lack of acceptance on job sites. Undeterred, she tackled these obstacles through education, building credibility and challenging gender bias.


Now in a leadership role, Bovard is using her platform to inspire change, offering mentorship and creating equitable opportunities through initiatives like her non-profit, Construction Allies in Action. Her story serves as a powerful testament to the value women bring to the construction industry and the importance of fostering an inclusive environment for all.


What does a day in the life of an Executive Vice President look like?

As the Executive Vice President at the Builders Exchange of Michigan, I oversee the organization and ensure our priorities are focused on serving our members. A typical day involves managing the flow of operations, addressing team needs and strategizing how to keep the construction industry moving forward. I also spend time analyzing trends, exploring innovations like AI and identifying opportunities to enhance our services. A significant part of my role is maintaining an industry-wide perspective and ensuring our organization remains relevant amid the ever-changing landscape.


What drew you to the construction industry? 

My initial draw to the construction industry came from an interest in the building process itself. Watching a project evolve from the planning stages, through bidding and contracting, to the final constructed product fascinated me. I was captivated by how various elements came together, each component playing a crucial role in the bigger picture.


What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the construction industry? 

The ability to promote diversity and inclusion, particularly for underrepresented groups like women and minority contractors. Witnessing the unique perspectives and contributions these groups bring to the table has been truly inspiring. I find great fulfillment in breaking down barriers, providing access to resources and empowering individuals to thrive in an industry that has traditionally lacked equitable opportunities.


What would you say to someone unfamiliar with careers in construction?

I would emphasize the boundless possibilities it offers. The industry is currently facing a shortage of companies and skilled workers, creating ample room for growth and career advancement. While the field has historically been male dominated, this paradigm is shifting, and more women are breaking into diverse roles. I would encourage newcomers to self-educate and develop the confidence to speak authoritatively about the industry's intricacies.


Can you share an experience that highlights the unique challenges you've faced as a woman in a male-dominated field and how you overcome those challenges?

One significant aspect that hinders women from joining the construction industry is the longstanding perception that it is a male-dominated field, particularly in physical labor roles. On job sites, women often face challenges such as sexist remarks, doubts about their capabilities and a general lack of acceptance from male colleagues. In my own experience, I have encountered situations where my authority and expertise were questioned solely based on my gender. Overcoming these challenges required continuous self-education, building a solid reputation and proving my competence through hard work and dedication.


Have you seen any change with women in construction over the past five to 10 years?

I have witnessed positive changes in the industry's attitude towards women. Organizations are implementing initiatives like "Women in Construction Week" and actively promoting career opportunities to high school students, regardless of gender. However, while progress has been made, challenges persist. There are still job sites where coworker biases and remarks can create an unwelcoming environment.


How can more women be encouraged to enter and thrive in this field? 

To better support and encourage women, the industry should prioritize top-down leadership, provide bias training and foster a culture that embraces diversity.


What are some of the unique perspectives, skills or strengths that women bring to the construction industry that might be overlooked?

Women often provide an attention to detail, strong communication abilities and the ability to multitask, greatly benefitting project management and collaboration. Additionally, women's innovative thinking and fresh perspectives can lead to novel solutions and approaches.


What is some advice you would give to someone just starting out? 

Remain confident, continuously educate themselves and cultivate a strong support system to overcome any challenges.

 

As a woman in a leadership role, how do you hope to inspire future generations of women in this field? 

I hope to inspire and pave the way for future generations by leading through example. My focus is on educating and empowering not only my staff and organizational members but also underrepresented contractors, including women and people of color. Through my non-profit initiative, Construction Allies in Action, I aim to provide invaluable resources, mentorship and strategic support to help these groups establish, scale and thrive in their businesses. By creating a more equitable playing field and fostering an environment of growth, we can encourage more women to pursue careers in this field.


How important is a diverse workforce?

A diverse workforce, including more women, is crucial for the construction industry's success and growth. Diversity brings a wealth of perspectives, experiences and problem-solving approaches to the table, ultimately leading to more innovative and effective solutions. Additionally, as the industry evolves and customer demographics shift, a workforce that reflects the diversity of the communities it serves becomes increasingly important.


How can companies create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for women? 

Companies can create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for women by implementing training programs, addressing workplace biases and promoting a culture of respect and equal opportunities, both on job sites and in office settings.


What's one thing you would like to say when it comes to Women in Construction – specifically to our young women here in West Michigan. 

This industry offers limitless potential for growth, innovation, and the ability to leave a tangible mark on the world around you. While challenges may arise, embrace them as opportunities to showcase your resilience, determination, and unique strengths. Surround yourself with a supportive network, continuously educate yourself, and have the courage to break through barriers. The construction industry needs your fresh perspectives and talents to drive it forward into a more equitable and inclusive future.


 

About Construction Allies in Action

Construction Allies in Action

Construction Allies in Action, founded in 2020, aims to empower underrepresented construction contractors to grow their businesses into sustainable companies in Michigan. We supply training and discounted resources for these contractors and understand that true growth and sustainability require a comprehensive strategy that addresses the multifaceted challenges faced by these entrepreneurs.







About Builders Exchange of Michigan

Building Exchange of Michigan

The Builders Exchange of Michigan was established in 1885 as a not for profit, membership owned organization. Our members receive statewide coverage of projects in the planning and bidding phase with full accessibility in a virtual plan room. Builders Exchange of Michigan is the conduit that connects members to projects, other contractors, owners and architects.



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