Women in Construction – A Long Island Business News Article

Long Island Construction Law does not own this content. This content was created by Peggy Keane and was published to the Long Island Business News on April 6th, 2022

At its most basic level, construction is about taking an idea and bringing it to life in the real world. Knowing that I took a concept and gave it form has always been one the most rewarding aspects of the roles I have had.

In March, we celebrated Women In Construction Week, a welcome occasion that recognizes that women like me — and, I hope, some of you reading this — are an important part of this profession.

Let me tell you how I built my career from teenaged summer laborer to vice president of an electric service provider — and what I learned along the way.

Construction has always been in my blood. Even before college, I did roofing work, as well as forest and timber stand improvement in the Youth Conservation Corps, a program for teens run by the National Parks Service.

After studying engineering in college, I started my career at Proctor & Gamble as one of the first cohort of female engineers they hired. Much of my job entailed building equipment and processes to produce our products. I went on to do similar work for General Foods as well as my own company before joining the team at PSEG.

I started out in Gas Operations at PSE&G, the New Jersey utility arm of PSEG, where I was involved in replacing much of the utility’s aging bare steel gas mains. The problem-solving I did led me to want to take on project management. When a new organization was created within the company to handle the large capital projects, I jumped at the chance and became their contracting manager.

When PSEG Long Island was being launched, I accepted the opportunity to manage the FEMA-funded storm hardening program that ran from 2014 until 2020. It was a huge project, touching every municipality on Long Island and in the Rockaways. The benefits were considerable. We ended up hardening more than 900 miles of power lines, installing 887 new smart switches and replacing 24,800 aging poles to make our communities here more resilient during severe weather.

Thanks in part to the success of the FEMA program, I was promoted to the role of vice president of Construction and Business Services managing the Projects and Construction team among others to serve our 1.1 million customers.

That’s my journey.

Reading this, you might think that my career was a linear path with perfect clarity. Truthfully, it was just the opposite. But in many ways, that nonlinearity is what has made it so rewarding. When I graduated, there weren’t examples of women in this field that I could look to. There were no “obvious” career paths to follow and I certainly could have never imagined all of the ebbs and flows, pivots, sacrifices and gut checks this journey would bring. The perspective I have today is seeing that this journey is mine and I wish I could tell my younger self that there is no one “right” path.

Here are a few practices that can help you find your path:

Own who you are: Although this continues to be a male dominated field, the perspective and talents that women bring to our work is critical to our long term success and delivering on our commitments to our customers. Take stock of who you are, what your value system is, what you want for yourself and your career, and own that truth. Unfortunately you may not always find yourself surrounded by many women, but that is all the more reason to pull up a chair and make your voice heard.

Own your path: I have always assessed roles not only by position, responsibility and pay, but also by exposure and growth opportunity. Positions that are outside the traditional lane but offer you the chance to develop new skills are still ones to consider as part of the big picture. It can be tempting, especially when you are just starting out, to make career decisions based on what the organization considers the “right” next step, but this is your career. There is no single path to your goals.

Be fully you all the time: What happens to your persona when you enter the office? Does she speak the same way? Does she not share her personal life? Does she shy away from communicating her goals? Thankfully, things are not the same as when I was young, but women still feel the pressure. I was seven-months pregnant with my first child before I sheepishly told my boss about it, because I thought it would be the end of my career. I’m saddened at the waste, the burden and the loss of potential so many women have endured from maintaining dual personas. It doesn’t have to be this way. We spend so much of our lives in the workplace. If you deny yourself the permission to just be, you’re limiting your potential and leaving very little space for happiness. At PSEG Long Island and across the PSEG enterprise, diversity, equity and inclusion are part of our core commitments. We strive to create a workplace environment where everyone can be their authentic selves, because we achieve more when everyone feels that they can fully participate. (You can browse our latest job openings at https://jobs.pseg.com/LI.)

Everyone needs a personal board of directors: Not just one mentor; a board of directors. That board should provide guidance and feedback, and also initiate connections to help your personal and career goals. Meet with them one-on-one or as a collective board on a regular basis. Some of the most impactful guidance I have received has come from the unlikeliest places, so I encourage you to consider someone outside your field, another possibly within it, a third who has a strong contact list and is willing to make the connections, a cheerleader, someone who is highly critical, and a person who has had a similar journey to your own.

Just remember: Life is short, don’t get hung up on the details, enjoy the journey and go get ‘em!

Peggy Keane is vice president of construction and business services for PSEG Long Island

John Caravella Esq., is a construction attorney and formerly practicing project architect at The Law Office of John Caravella, P.C., representing architects, engineers, contractors, subcontractors, and owners in all phases of contract preparation, litigation, and arbitration across New York and Florida. He also serves as an arbitrator to the American Arbitration Association Construction Industry Panel. Mr. Caravella can be reached by email: John@LIConstructionLaw.com or (631) 608-1346.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.  Readers of this website should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.  No reader, user, or browser of this site should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.  Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation.  Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website authors, contributors, contributing law firms, or committee members and their respective employers.

Long Island Construction Law does not own this content. This content was created by Peggy Keane and was published to the Long Island Business News on April 6th, 2022