Every year, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) dedicates one week to highlight women as a viable component of the construction industry. Women in Construction (WIC) Week is also a chance to raise awareness of the career opportunities available to women in this industry. In honor of WIC Week, we sat down with Adrienne Ayers, aviation segment leader at McCarthy Improvement, to talk about her career path, aspirations, and accomplishments.
Where did you grow up?
My family is originally from the Caribbean Island of Trinidad and Tobago. I grew up and went to school in Brooklyn NY and graduated from Paul Robeson High School for Business and Technology.
What college did you attend and what did you major in?
I attended Temple University in Philadelphia where I majored in Architecture and attended Pratt Institute in NYC for Graduate studies in Construction Management.
What are you responsible for at McCarthy Improvement?
I am the Aviation Segment Leader in the Southeast where I am responsible for Business development. Finding new business and maintaining relationships with past clientele so that we can also encourage recurring business. Assisting the company in all aspects of new business and the goals that we have set through our Strategic Plan will always be my focus.
In the science and engineering field, it’s estimated that only 14% percent are women. Why do you think women are so heavily underrepresented?
I believe there are many reasons for this but one major reason for me when I was coming up through high school and university was that there was a lack of true information regarding engineering, architecture, and other technical professions and that women actually have a place. It was not heavily talked about. STEM and STEAM programs are starting to address these things but still not enough. Students (young girls) need better examples and encouragement towards these fields so that they are not turned off nor intimidated. Letting them know from an earlier age will help in development. I combed through it by myself, but I now can help others.
You are skilled in the aviation and construction industries. Did you know you wanted to pursue a career in these fields? And was there something or someone that influenced this decision?
I definitely knew that I was going to be in a technical field. I understood that early in my education as I was more drawn to woodshop and technical drawing over home economics classes and I told myself that no matter what society said or what was deemed standard, I was going to do what I loved and what I was good at despite the challenges that I would be faced with!
What’s the biggest misconception about women working in the engineering, aviation, or construction industries?
That we do not have the skillset and talent to understand, lead and be successful in male-dominated fields. Women are rated lower in perceptions of their competence, their promotion potential, leadership skills, and oftentimes are perceived as less committed to our work a lot of times because of the roles we play as caregivers and oftentimes parents. Truth be told, we can juggle very well without dropping a ball!
What’s your take on the aviation industry and where do you think it’s headed?
Aviation is a dynamic industry and constantly evolving. Once the business model changes, it sends a message to every other business that supports this industry that they too must also evolve. Specifically, in construction and capital improvement, one must constantly explore alternative ways to sustain business no matter the environment. From methods to materials, everything matters. The industry is also headed in a promising direction as you now see more females represented in different factions from pilots to aircraft engineers, it is beautiful to see.
Is there one personal or professional achievement you are proud of and would be willing to share?
I would say that I have been truly blessed in my career to have worked for several great organizations and with such great people that helped shape my path. From my internship at Daiwa Securities while in college to my first job after graduating with my Architecture Degree as a Facilities Associate for Auto One Insurance in Long Island then being recruited to the Helmsley Building on Park Avenue as a Facility Manager for a German Bank where I was the youngest with some heavy responsibilities. Then from there was recommended by my Manager to work with Grubb and Ellis as a Property Manager where I was responsible for the GM Building in Long Island City, TIAA Cref building, and Hammacher Schlemmer Building in midtown. Then after my credentials fell into the hands of a Director at John F Kennedy International (Terminal 4) my career and degree were tested as I was asked to sign on to be the Structural Facility Manager for the Terminal of 1.5 million sq ft at the time. It was a baptism by fire because I was entering into a field that was unknown.
After a successful journey at JFK, I relocated to the Caribbean where my family was to be the Engineering Manager for the Airport Authority of Trinidad and Tobago and after three years was promoted to Deputy General Manager of Estate Planning and Business Development for both airport sites. I also earned my International Airport Professional (IAP) designation in the process. But chose to return to the states with my family as there was more for me to do. I accepted a Director position at the Augusta Airport on my return and continued my passion for construction and development in the aviation industry. Through all these steps I got a chance to understand multiple aspects of the Aviation Business, Contracting, and Asset Management coupled with management and leadership skills that would last me a lifetime. What I failed to mention is that I was the only woman at every organization in those positions but gained the respect of all my colleagues.
I said all of that to say this…I AM PROUD OF ALL OF IT! They are all major achievements for me as each organization trusted me with the tasks at hand as a young woman which led to numerous successful programs, projects, and awards and for that…I am thankful!
If there’s one piece of advice you could tell your younger self, what would it be?
Never second guess yourself. Your choices and decisions will lead to a fulfilling career that will also teach/help/encourage others along the way. My decisions are bigger than just me!