- Mar 3, 2020
Danielle Skilling grew up working alongside her father on various home improvement projects. They’d spend Saturday afternoons making small repairs to the plumbing or applying a fresh coat of paint to the hallway and the bedrooms. While her peers engaged in imaginative play with dolls and dream houses, Danielle was more interested in the inner workings of her home’s mechanical and electrical systems.
Danielle also suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, which at times made her feel as though she didn’t quite belong and often limited her verbal expression. But working with her hands – building things, repairing the sink in the bathroom with her father – provided an avenue to express herself in a way words never could. She knew from a very young age that she wanted a career in construction.
However, when the time came, Danielle was told that construction “wasn’t for girls.”
She would spend the next two decades in and out of matriculation, working towards a degree that just didn’t feel right, and landing odd jobs to raise two children. Until, one day, she found work doing document control for Gilbane Building Company and something long-ago repressed clicked into place.
She witnessed the women of Gilbane, such as Senior Project Manager Lee McConnell, working alongside men, building things, proving to her that construction was, in fact, “for girls” just as much as it was for men. Lee encouraged Danielle to get out of her comfort zone and be willing to step up to the challenge and take some risks, even when things didn’t go according to plan.
Today, Danielle works as a community affairs specialist within Gilbane’s Massachusetts business unit. In this role, she works to promote a diverse and inclusive construction workforce and has made it her mission to help young women and minorities find success, as well as a sense of belonging, in the construction industry.
As Lee inspired Danielle by proving that women did have a place within the industry, Danielle now works to educate and expose other young women to the opportunities available to them.
This is the essence of empoWer, our internal employee resource group (ERG) focused on the advancement, recruitment and retention of women at Gilbane and within our industry as a whole.
With hundreds of members companywide and local chapters forming each day in various states throughout the country, our empoWer ERG aims to deliver a global platform which connects, attracts and inspires women to thrive and excel in their personal and professional lives. Our vision is to help equip women to lead, both at Gilbane and beyond, and our culture advocates for the advancement of women within the industry by challenging the unconscious bias.
This week, our industry comes together to celebrate Women in Construction Week; a seven-day opportunity to highlight women as a visible component of the construction industry. Our local empoWer chapters have events planned throughout the week which foster comradery, challenge biases, celebrate women who inspire us, and showcase the myriad of opportunities available to women and young girls within our industry.
We’re hopeful that in the future, there won’t be any more young women, like Danielle, who hear that construction isn’t for her. It’s for all of us.