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Established Women in Construction - Nancy Novak


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Nancy Novack, Senior VP of Construction with Compass Datacenters

Biography

I started my career in construction over 30 years ago by visiting jobsites with my father who worked with one of the largest global contractors at the time. Now, I am an Officer serving as a National Vice President of Operations for Balfour Beatty Construction, one of the largest commercial construction companies in the US. My job is to provide national leadership to operations teams across the country. We work to strengthen ability to scale innovation and knowledge and bring national consistency and a strong operating culture. I’m also a strong advocate and mentor to women, both within the industry and around the globe. 

I love this industry! It’s a very noble profession, and it that touches every other industry and every person in a profound way. We never stop learning. We learn about each business industry we design and build for. We learn about the challenges each business sector, government agency, municipality, and organization faces, as well as the innovative ways these challenges can be are being addressed. It’s never, ever boring.

 My passion for advancing women in business occurs through organizations like Women In Government Relations (WGR), Women Construction Owners and Executives (WCOE), the World Trade Center Institute (WTCI), and the Sewall-Belmont House in Washington, D.C. 

Currently, I’m an active board member at the National Woman’s Party, founded back in 1916. It’s an organisation committed to sharing the untold stories of women’s history. Besides that, I’m also a Visionary Champion for Above Glass Ceilings, a consulting company focused on the advancement of professional women and changing the discussion around the empowerment of women and girls worldwide.

Nancy's Piece of Advice

"If I could go back in time, I might have done things a little differently. Entering the construction industry in the 80’s was much different than today, although many of the same biases still persist. 

The biggest difference, though, in the bias we, women, faced years ago from what we face today is the explicit versus implicit display of them. However, attitudes about the contribution and belonging of women in construction have changed for the better, and I am extremely grateful for that. 

So, I would have definitely advised myself to have taken more 'soft skill' leadership training if it was available. It’s so hard to know the best response to adversity or stressful circumstances when your actions could likely be misunderstood. What I mean by this is that an aggressive stance could seem too hard, a timid stance could seem too weak, a nonchalant reaction could seem cold or uncaring, and so on. This is all true, particularly for women. 

So how can we fix all of these misunderstandings? Well, my advice is to work hard at really getting to know your peers and (especially) your leadership on a personal and professional level. 

This is harder for women than for men because hanging out socially with our male peers (one on one) can be perceived as misconstrued and inappropriate for many reasons. But if we don’t get to that level of intimacy of really knowing each other, the “way” someone may interpret your response, course of action, decision process, abilities, tolerance for risk taking, and general character under certain pressures is certainly going to be off.

In addition to just being 'taken' the way you intend to come across, there is the human nature side of simply advocating for those you know and trust the most on a personal and professional level. 

We all do this; it’s how we are wired.

So, the advice is working hard to know and be known by your peer group and your leadership group. The how-to is still a challenge that has no easy answer, but it is worth taking on."

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