Women In Construction Week - Lena Horton
Mar 5, 2020
Growing up, Lena Horton, Project Engineer, always loved fixing and designing things, which led her to pursue a career in construction. When she started working in the industry, she felt like she had to try to blend in with the guys. While at BELL, she realized that being her authentic self was the best way to fit in.
What got you interested in construction? How did you get your start?
I am one of those people who knew what they wanted to do as far back as I can remember. Growing up, I was always interested in fixing things (even when they weren’t broken) and designing new things. Anything that would get my hands dirty and sounded like hard work was something I wanted to jump in and help with. As I got older, my love for fixing things around the house turned into designing solutions, sketching dream homes, and obsessively designing houses in Sims computer games. Once I got to college I was stuck because I wasn’t sure how to get my foot in the door, but after years of searching for a fit, I finally found the construction management program at MTSU. It was the perfect combination of engineering, designing, and not being stuck in an office. I shadowed different people and jobs in residential and commercial construction before I finally landed in commercial construction.
Was there anyone that inspired you to pursue a career in construction?
I’ve always wanted to be in construction, even before the days of Pinterest, HGTV design shows, or Joanna Gaines. I would not say that any one person inspired me, but my parents have always been my biggest cheerleaders. My mom is a single mom with two daughters. She has a great corporate job and growing up we witnessed a hardworking woman doing her best to balance life. When I told my parents I wanted to study construction, there were never questions about being a female in a male-dominated industry, or whether it was something I could handle. My parents always offered reassurance and support. That has inspired me most.
How can the field/industry improve in getting women more involved?
The best thing this industry can do for women is to stop singling us out as “women in construction” and just let us be regular employees. I hardly ever feel like I have to go the extra mile to prove myself because I am a woman, and that is because of all the bad-ass women that came before me and paved the way. Most of us just want to come to work like any other person, be respected like any other person, and be treated like any other person.
What advice do you have for women considering a career in construction? Why do you believe that it is essential to have women in construction?
When I first entered the industry, I wasn’t sure how others would react to me being a woman, and a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl at that. I tried so desperately to blend in with the guys by wearing baggy clothes that wouldn’t hug any part of my body for fear of catcalling or staring, and I would never wear makeup or curl my hair for fear of being too pretty to know anything. Trying to blend in with the crowd of men in khakis and polos became exhausting and more distracting for me than it was helpful because it wasn’t me. After a couple of years of experience, both in the office and on the job site, I realized that being an intellectual woman in this industry is my superpower. My advice is to be your authentic self. Yes, you may be judged by people when they first meet you, but being confident in who you are combined with the power of your knowledge will take you much further in life and in your career. Now that I am true to myself every day, I feel like the project teams respect me and, to be honest, most of these men love to have a conversation about construction with a woman and learn our perspectives.