At KGO, we stand committed to fostering diversity and empowering women within the construction industry—a mission that resonates through our actions and partnerships. Our team recently attended the  17th Annual Women in Construction Conference in the heart of Washington DC. Assistant Project Manager, Luba Arefeva, along with Project Manager Jaclyn Cavanagh and Assistant Project Manager Brigitte Contreras, represented KGO at this exciting event.

In this blog, Luba Arefeva shares her unique perspective and key takeaways from the conference. Luba’s reflections underscore the importance of such events that not only drive conversations, but also pave the way for actionable change.

Follow along below to read her recap!

Luba Arefa

As an Assistant Project Manager passionate about career development and industry evolution, I was enthusiastic about the wealth of knowledge the conference promised. The keynote address by Catie Campbell, with its focus on the “Maverick Mindset”, was particularly inspiring, echoing the conference’s core message of forging an individual path on one’s own terms. The day concluded with a panel celebrating women leading mega construction projects, an invigorating discussion on emotional intelligence, and final remarks that encapsulated the spirit of progress and unity felt throughout the event.

Keynote Address

Boosting Resilience at Work and in Life

In a landscape often characterized by tight deadlines and demanding projects, finding equilibrium between professional demands and personal well-being can be challenging. The “Boosting Resilience at Work and in Life” workshop provided invaluable insights into the 6 foundational elements of resilience, as outlined in Gemma Leigh Roberts “Mindset Matters.”

The six pillars of resilience discussed in the session help build a strong work character that can handle stress and adapt to change well. Confidence, the first key part, is the foundation of feeling sure about ourselves. It reminds us to concentrate on what we can control. Adaptability, another important part, was praised for its focus on being open to new ideas and always looking to get better, which are qualities I really value.

Positivity, which was illuminated with a simple but profound linguistic shift from “Yes, but…” to “Yes, and…” was a revelation. This nuance in communication could potentially transform the tone of a conversation and is a practice I am eager to adopt and cultivate.

In conversations, I’ve found that saying “Yes, AND…” really helps with working together and understanding each other. But, switching “AND” to “BUT” seems to change the whole mood. For example, when sharing an idea, it’s encouraging when someone says, “Yes, I get it!” But if they add, “But it won’t work,” the excitement drops. It will be better to say: “Yes, I get it! And it will work better if you do…”. It feels like using “But” takes away the value of the initial agreement, making the positive feedback feel less genuine.

Moreover, the speaker introduced us to a technique for enhancing the positivity of our thoughts—the “Superman Pose.” This powerful stance involves standing like Superman, hands on hips, in front of a mirror while taking deep breaths. Scientific studies have shown that this pose not only calms the nerves but also infuses both mind and body with a sense of positivity and strength. It’s a tool I look forward to incorporating into my routine, especially when in need of a confidence and positivity boost.

Perspective, the fourth pillar, challenges us to view obstacles as opportunities for growth, something that resonates deeply with my own professional philosophy.

Mastery, as discussed, is about setting and achieving goals that push us beyond our comfort zones, while Stamina emphasizes the importance of drawing strength from our networks and prioritizing health—both physical and emotional.

Amidst the lively discussions and the exchange of stories that echoed the room, a quote from one of the attendees particularly resonated with me when we delved into the topic of ‘Stamina.’ She said, “Relationships are like a medicine cabinet: there’s advice for a different purpose or problem you have, just like medicine for a different sickness.”

This analogy was profound, illustrating the unique and tailored support we receive from the relationships we cultivate. Just as we reach into a medicine cabinet for a remedy to a specific ailment, we can lean on different relationships for support, guidance, or a listening ear tailored to the challenges we face. It underscored the importance of a diverse and robust support network, reminding us that each connection in our lives holds the potential to heal, strengthen, and uplift us through the various ‘symptoms’ our professional and personal lives may present.

The interactive nature of the workshop not only provided theoretical knowledge but also fostered an engaging environment where we could share experiences and strategies. It was a potent reminder that our careers in construction are not just about the buildings we erect but also about the internal edifices of resilience we construct within ourselves.

Event Fun Fact: This year’s Women in Construction Conference was a complete sell-out, with more than 600 attendees and a waiting list of 70 on the day of the event. The extraordinary demand highlights the event’s significance and the growing enthusiasm in the industry.

A Personal Journey of Empowerment

In a session that touched my heart, one speaker’s personal narrative stood out—a tale of challenge and triumph that echoes the journey of many women in our industry. She had just celebrated her well-earned promotion to Project Manager when life presented her with the joyful news of pregnancy. Yet, this personal milestone was met with a confronting reality; she felt compelled to step away from her career to embrace motherhood fully. Her decision was met with a disheartening remark from her boss: “That’s why we don’t promote women to PM that often.”

The words stung, a stark reminder of the outdated mindset that professional ambition and motherhood are mutually exclusive pursuits for women. Her story, however, did not end there. After a period of reflection, she returned to the field with a newfound perspective: work is not the entirety of our existence. She emphasized that there’s a vibrant life beyond office walls that is equally deserving of our time and energy.

KGO team at Women in Construction Conference
Women in Construction Conference

Her journey resonates deeply with me, as I, too, faced the heart-wrenching choice of returning to work just weeks after welcoming my daughter into the world. The guilt and struggle seemed like an inevitable rite of passage for a working mother. But her story and mine converge on a hopeful note—a testament to the evolving landscape of construction where such choices are no longer necessary.

Now, as a proud member of the KGO team and expecting once again, I bask in the work-life balance that every woman deserves. This company stands as a beacon of progress, embodying the change that we wish to see across our industry. It is a change that not only supports but celebrates women like me, acknowledging that our roles as professionals and mothers are not at odds but are complementary facets of who we are. This shift heralds a new era—one where women do not have to choose, and where ‘mom guilt’ is replaced with empowerment and support.

Forging Ahead with Empowerment in Construction

Reflecting on the powerful stories shared at the Women in Construction Conference, I feel a renewed sense of purpose in our industry’s journey toward inclusivity. The narrative of a colleague balancing her promotion with motherhood particularly struck a chord with me, echoing my own challenges as a working mother.

This conference, particularly for women in construction, is a wellspring of inspiration and empowerment. It’s where personal and professional development converge, supported by companies like KGO that prioritize our well-being and growth.

For any woman navigating the construction industry, this event is a cornerstone, offering a sense of community and a trove of resources that catalyze change. My own experience is a testament to its transformative impact.

As we look to the future, the conference stands as a beacon, signaling that the path ahead is one we pave together—celebrating each step toward a balanced and fulfilling career. To women considering this conference: it’s an invaluable investment in your professional journey and a gateway to a community that uplifts and empowers.

KGO Team at Women in Construction Conference

Did you know? KGO is a diverse supplier. We are proudly women-owned!