Meet Gayle Stotts, Superintendent!
A little about me: I started in the trades as a Carpenter; I attended four years of trade school. When I was in trade school there were only four women in all four years of classes. When I graduated the apprenticeship, I was the first female to graduate #1 from that apprenticeship program. This was noted in the presentation speech they made when they presented me the award. The award was given based on acknowledgements made from the different companies I had worked for, the director of the apprenticeship program, the teachers and my fellow classmates.
To this day when driving past different jobs I have worked on, my children will say “my mom worked on this when it was being built”. Over the years the reactions they have received have been a lot of disbelief.
When I first started in the trades there was a State E.E.O.C. person that would come out to the job site to physically ensure that a woman was on the job. They would then interview you and ask you if you were being treated fairly, if you were having any problems with men giving you a hard time. Were you getting equal hours in comparison to your male counterparts? To my knowledge, with the number of women in the field growing this is not a common practice anymore.
One memory that has stayed with me and I still draw on to this day:
I was working with my tools, setting forms for a concrete pour. The bottom plate was down and my partner and I were nailing the forms to the bottom plate. My partner stood up and told me to just stand there and wait, he needed to get more nails as he had used everything he had in his pouches. I told him why don’t we change places and he could line up the forms and I would do the nailing for a while. I had nails and knew how to use my hammer. The look on his face was shock, but from that day on while on that crew I was treated as an equal.
What led you to a career in the construction industry?
I was a single mother with three small children and wanted to give them the best life possible. Since I had an old house that I was always working on someone suggested I look at getting into the trades. I applied to trade school but not knowing that much about the trades I also applied to college. I received my acceptance to college one day and the following day I received my acceptance to the trade school. It was at that point where I weighed the pros and cons. In trade school I earned an income to take care of my family while I was learning, and in college I would be going into debt, struggling to attend school and trying to earn enough to take care of my children and myself.
What do you love most about working in the construction industry?
(1) I never do the same thing, every job is different from the clients, finishes and challenging problems you have to address.
(2) When you are able to identify a problem before it becomes an issue or are able to come up with a solution, there is a sense of accomplishment.
(3) When a project is complete and you step back and look at what you just accomplished, it is something special and unique, you have such a sense of pride, a feeling that no one can take away from you.
What are the advantages women bring to the jobsite?
I don’t look at it as an advantage or a disadvantage; throughout my career, I have strived my whole career to be seen as an exceptional skilled worker.
How has the industry benefited from women in construction?
The industry has benefited in that there are more skilled workers available.
What is your advice to women interested in a career in construction?
Do not let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do something, or dismiss what you want to do. When I started in the trades I was told I would never make it but I never gave up. Set your mind to it and keep moving forward.
What women-led organizations are you involved with?
While I am not specifically a member of any women-led organization at this time, early on in my career I did a lot of speaking at gender equality seminars. I was involved in “Women in Construction” and have also worked for female owned companies. I also am a mentor for other females that work in the trades.
What Reed project are you most proud of and why?
From a technical aspect – Burton Judson: The job was completed on time and within budget. There were challenges on the project but I was able to address them in a timely manner by using my ability to create drawings and pictures which I used to communicate with the Architect & Engineers explaining what the field conditions were so that they could provide timely answers.
From a cool project standpoint – 625 W. Adams: When this job was complete it was just a great feeling of accomplishment.