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Chelsea LeMar

DNA of a VP of Construction

Chelsea LeMar Headshot As the Executive Director of Professional Women in Construction, Chelsea LeMar works to promote women in the construction industry through networking events, scholarship/mentorship programs, and by providing resources to women-owned businesses. Prior to PWC, Chelsea served as a political appointee in the U.S. Department of Transportation's policy department, where she worked on the TIGER discretionary grant program and the High Speed Rail grant program. She holds a Master’s in Public Administration from the London School of Economics, as well as a BA in Political Science and English Literature from Hastings College in Hastings, Nebraska.

Chelsea LeMar
Executive Director
Professional Women in Construction

PWC LogoHave there been changes in diversity within the construction workforce?

More people are paying attention to the issue and there’s certainly more exposure. There’s a clear business case for diversity and companies are recognizing that. There is now consistent data out there showing the correlation between higher female representation in higher-level positions and profit. Recently the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that increasing the proportion of women in senior management by 30 percent would be associated with a 15 percent increase in profitability. There is still a long way to go in getting there, but the attention is allowing larger strides to be made more quickly.  

What technical skills do you think are integral for construction leaders?  

Every company and every leader has their own story, and I could never give the perfect formula. But it is very important to have leadership and management skills because that is how the technical pieces will come together. Understanding the different skill sets of the team and how the different roles and processes connect. That combination of technical and managerial savvy is key throughout the growth of one's career.  

What attributes/characteristics do you believe are integral to the role?  

There are three things I would emphasize. Firstly, the ability to translate goals into actionable steps. How to get from A to B, and  determine who is responsible for each step along the way. When you combine the strategic and the tactical then you’re able to implement change and guide your company towards success. 

Secondly, leaders need to be able to successfully inspire those involved by bringing relevance to each integral role and process. Ensure everyone in your organization understands the company’s overall goals, their role in those objectives, and is invested in the success of the company.  

Finally, have a micro and macro understanding of the project, the company and the industry. This includes not only today, but the picture for tomorrow, what is changing and fluctuating, and how you are going to engage with those new challenges. 

What is your advice to someone who is moving up the ranks in the field and wants to pursue a management/executive career?  

There is a balance between finding mentors and asking how they have been successful, and finding personal strengths that lead to success. Finding yourself and honing your skills and strengths, while also listening and learning from good managers is key to moving up the ranks.  

How important is it to be exposed to all areas of the business?  

Understanding the different roles is important, but most leaders have a bird’s eye view of a project to make sure it comes together nicely. Some of the best managers actually don’t know the technical details of jobs, but are really good at giving parameters and letting their employees do their jobs.  

In your opinion, how important is networking for construction leaders? 

I have seen first-hand how networking is successful for business. Relationships and dynamics are important to a job, and networking events are a great way to showcase this.  

How does your organization support professional networking for construction professionals?

Networking defines who we are. Starting in 1980, PWC offered an outlet for those engaged in a very white-male dominated industry. Since then, it has grown because of the relationships that it has fostered. It was a very different time for marketing and building relationships, but our organization holds its core strength through the tight bonds that have been nurtured person-to-person over the last 35 years. 

We are always looking for the best way for people to connect, and trying them out. We hold networking events that include educational panels, industry-driven lectures and discussions, awards dinners, golf outings, intimate member-only dinners.  

In your opinion, how important is social media for networking/helping one achieve their career goals?  

Social media has a pretty incredible reach. Tapping into this reach has potential if done effectively with attention and focus.  

What advice would you give to the next generation of professionals aspiring to become a construction leader? 

Focus on your strengths, build your network, keep doors open and understand the potential of your perseverance, grit and patience.