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March 28, 2013

Women of ULM make strides in the construction industry

University of Louisiana at Monroe graduates Lindsey Eickman (BS, '10), Amelia Mixon (BS, '12), and Helen Portman (BS, '11) share the unique position of working in the construction industry, a field typically dominated by men.

ULM's construction management program began in 1966—female students began graduating from the program in the early to mid-1970s.

In 1976, ULM's construction management program became the nation's first program accredited by the American Council for Construction Education.

In the beginning, female student enrollment capped at one percent, but the numbers have increased five to eight percent in recent years.

Dr. Keith Parker, Director of the ULM School of Construction Management, said, "Women make up about 10 percent of the total construction workforce, with only seven percent of construction managers being women. Our current student enrollment is 12 percent female."

The ULM School of Construction Management prepares students to manage, coordinate, and supervise all aspects of the construction process, providing the industry with highly trained and motivated graduates.

"While some students choose professions outside of the construction industry, job placement opportunity within the construction management industry is at 100 percent," said Parker.

Each of these three female graduates is excelling in the construction industry.

Lindsey Eickman, originally from Garland, Texas, works with JE Dunn Construction in Baton Rouge as a Project Engineer.

Initially, she said she became interested in construction management by "Playing with Lincoln logs, Legos, and K'Nex with my brothers growing up!"

Eickman overcame some reservations she experienced as an undergraduate. "I often felt completely out of my league because I had never framed a wall, poured concrete, or hung sheet metal," she said.

"Over the years, I have learned that my strengths are complimentary to the men in the industry who have labor experience. I lean on them to learn technical and experienced information, and they depend on me to keep things coordinated and organized."

Eickman's experiences in ULM's construction management program taught her integrity, she said.

"My time at ULM taught me the importance of developing relationships based on trust, and to conduct business with integrity. The whole basis of our education in the School of Construction Management was rooted in integrity, staying true to our ethics, which helps me be firm and fair in my day-to-day work."

Her advice for future construction management female leaders? "If you find yourself in a work arrangement with a man, or woman, who is completely different than you, see it as an opportunity to learn."

Amelia Mixon, originally from Monroe, works with Jacobs Engineering in Houston as a Planner/Scheduler in Project Controls.

She said "a positive attitude" is important.

Mixon's current job is empowering her to overcome her fear of public speaking. "No matter how well you speak in front of your professors, classmates, and small gatherings, large world-wide companies like Jacobs naturally employ large, diversified groups of people … For me, the mastery of public speaking is still a work in progress, and I have continued to take advantage of any public speaking classes and workshops offered. While I'm still nervous, it's getting better!"

Helen Portman, originally from Monroe, works with Ron Williams Construction in Sulphur as a Document Controls Manager.

Reflecting on her education at ULM, she said, "Without Dr. Parker and his wonderful staff, there is no doubt in my mind I wouldn't be where I am today. They work hard to present you with all the opportunities necessary to excel – you just have to have the want-to and drive to be and to do your best. There is not one thing I learned in the classroom that I have not used in the industry."

Regarding the construction industry, Portman said, "Construction really is a brutal industry whether you are a woman or a man. Just be yourself and work your hardest. Never consider yourself 'man' or 'woman' – just be yourself."

All three mentioned their great love for ULM's Construction Building, particularly the open areas and lounges where students of construction gather to swap stories and discuss their classes. "You really became family with the people you went to school with," said Portman. "It was a place I truly felt at home on campus. I always felt like myself in the lounge more than any other place."

To learn more about ULM's School of Construction Management program, visit

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