March 6, 2020

This week, March 1-7, is National Women in Construction Week. We join our partner on the Swartz Hall renewal, Shawmut Design and Construction, in celebrating this week, and I wanted to use this space to highlight some of the women working hard to renew Swartz Hall.

Women have been taking part in all aspects of the renewal project at the Swartz Hall construction site. They have been part of the demolition crew that readied the site for its transformation into a modern teaching and learning space. They have assembled scaffolding, built forms for the concrete foundation, overseen activities as project managers, and more. Outside of the trades, there are several women performing important roles for the renewal project as well. Women are helping to oversee the various aspect of the work as project managers for Shawmut, as architects with Ann Beha Architects, as principal mechanical designers with Altieri Sebor Wieber Consulting Engineers, and as structural engineers at Structures North.

While Women in Construction Week is important to mark, there is a larger issue to be cognizant of all year long. A recent story in the Boston Globe highlighted that women account for only about 10 percent of the U.S. construction work force, according to federal data from 2019.

HDS found a partner in Shawmut Design and Construction that shares the same values. Joseph Lombardi, Shawmut’s project superintendent for the Swartz Hall renewal said: “As a superintendent, it’s always a priority to hire the most qualified personnel available for the task at hand. More times than not, that requires trades-women to bring their unique skill sets to my projects. The misconception that construction is an industry for men is totally false, and having women on the workforce here at the Divinity School has helped us in many ways. Shawmut Design and Construction is on the leading edge in the construction industry when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and we try and project that mission to our clients by hiring a diverse workforce for our projects.”

Below are some of the women who are working on the project.

Ironworker Katie Davenport

Ironworker Katie Davenport

Katie Davenport is a member of Ironworkers Local Union 7 and is a first-year apprentice. She was recently working to tie metal rods together as part of the foundation footing for the multipurpose addition that will contain the new café and commons area, flexible classroom and event space, and meeting areas. She offered some advice for women interested in joining the trades. “Just get out there and do it. It’s hard and it’s a little scary at first, but I surprised myself with what I can do. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it, but I tried it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but just keep trying.”

Davenport, whose father was a crane operator, said the job was something that always interested her. “I’ve always been a Tom Boy. I’ve always liked getting dirty. I do something different every day. I could be tying, welding, doing structural work, there’s so many different avenues I could be doing, which is awesome.”

Pipefitter Deborah Mullen

Pipefitter Deborah Mullen

Deborah Mullen has been a pipefitter for 17 years. She was recently cutting and installing copper pipes on the fourth floor of Swartz Hall that will be used in the building’s new heating and cooling system. She’s a second-generation pipefitter following in her father’s footsteps. Her advice to women interested in getting into the trades? “The hardest part is showing up every day. When you show up and do your work you’ll be fine. Ninety percent of it is showing up.”

Site work. As you can see in the picture below, the steel frame of the multipurpose space is being set in place and the addition is quickly taking shape. Work continues placing footings and walls in Swartz Hall and in the old stack wing elevator pit. Contractors are erecting scaffolding for roof, window, and masonry repairs. Interior demolition activities, rough framing, and plumbing and electrical work are ongoing. Dumpster swaps are ongoing. All activities are subject to change based on weather or other circumstances.

—Ralph

Swartz Hall addition steel frame