Built for Growth Episode 2: Women in Construction
Posted September 8th, 2020
Right now, women make up about 9% of the construction workforce. There are huge opportunities for women in construction, either as part of the workforce or as a business owner, but there are also challenges that must be met.
In this episode of Built for Growth, Sartura Shuman-Smith, Director of Tampa Bay Works for Women at The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women, and Robyn Donaldson, owner of Renew Construction Services, and Founder of the STEM Xposure Inc., join Mobilization Funding CEO Scott Peper for a discussion on the challenges and opportunities for women in construction, and what companies can do to encourage women to join the industry.
Full Transcript Below
Scott Peper 0:42 Hi everybody, welcome. I’m Scott Peper, CEO of Mobilization Funding. I’m really excited to talk today about women in construction and I have two awesome women. Very strong, powerful women, in my view, here to talk a little bit today. First is our Sartura Schumann-Smith. She’s the director of the Tampa Bay Works for Women at the Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women, and Robyn Donaldson, owner of Renew Construction Services and founder of STEM Exposure Inc program, which exposes high school students to different STEM and architectural design programs. Welcome, ladies.
Sartura Shuman-Smith 1:17 Thank you.
Robyn Donaldson 1:20 Hi, thank you for having me.
Scott Peper 1:20 Welcome. I want to thank you guys so much for taking the time to do this with us. We always are looking for interesting and exciting topics. Today, I really feel like not only am I going to learn a lot, that I usually do from this, but I think it’s going to touch on areas that we’re just so not familiar with and in doing some of the research on both of you and the things that you guys have done being the fact that this is in our local community, to and you guys are all of us are in the Tampa Bay area. It’s nice that we’re gonna be able to see things and find out and things that I didn’t know existed really, I mean, I’ve known about different programs, but to see what you guys are doing and how you’re doing them and how they can impact our local area is really important to me, so I’m excited about that.
Robyn Donaldson 1:57 Awesome.
Sartura Shuman-Smith 1:58 I am too.
Scott Peper 1:59 Robyn, let me ask you a question, to start with you. You have different companies, you know, community real estate developer and you’ve had lots of volunteer work. Tell us a little bit about your journey, where you’re from how you decided to focus on the architecture and construction space. And mostly, maybe just round that through your whole career. How did you get into this?
Robyn Donaldson 2:22 Oh, well, let’s see I’ve always been interested in construction. I think it was to, to spite my mom because she always wanted me to go into the nursing field. So, while in high school, I went to Tampa Bay vocational tech, and I took up industrial electricity, just to make her mad, and I fell in love with construction. I just absolutely loved it. I’m a problem solver. So, it was just at the time an ideal fit. Upon graduating In 1987, I don’t want to say that too loud, I graduated from high school, I had a certification as an apprentice, and I worked for TC Hernandez Electric, Tampa Tribune, doing electrical maintenance, until I had an accident where my hand was caught in the machine. And I’m like, you know what, I have to stop doing all the laborer’s work. Let me get into a, let’s say the administrative side of things. I reached out to a great friend of mine, who’s a general contractor, and she just really exposed me to all of the different facets of construction. And let me say this, she’s my mentor. She’s the first African American to receive a General Contractor’s license in the state of Florida. And her name is Anne McNeil from MCO Construction in South Florida. She’s an awesome, awesome person. And again, she exposed me to the different trades, different aspects of construction. Whether it was aviation, transportation, and she just really gave me my start, she helped direct my footsteps. And I found myself in architectural design. Again, I’m a problem solver. I love to design things; I love to develop. And as a result, from that I took classes at HCC, I received my, my certification for architectural design. And then there was the building component. And it all just made sense. I just absolutely love involving, I say myself with hands, and then really just creating things. So that’s the gist of how I got into the construction side of things. But with all of the different business that I have, they all revolve around construction.
Scott Peper 4:49 Cool. Thank you for sharing that. And Sartura, you run the Tampa Bay Works for Women program and its construction-focused program of Women Building Futures. Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself, how you got into that what your thoughts are around your program, how you got to start it and where it’s heading and how you got into it yourself?
Sartura Shuman-Smith 5:07 Sure. Well, I’m, Robyn, I didn’t do anything in spite of (laughs)—so I, my start is right here in Tampa. I’m a Tampa native. So that’s a rarity in itself. I always wanted to be a school teacher and I guess you’re saying that how does that work into construction or careers, but I always wanted to be a school teacher and when the college, did that, taught school for a while, and ended up in nonprofit, decided that well, I don’t not sure if I really want to do this anymore. But I ended up in nonprofit my first nonprofit job was with Tampa Housing Authority. And then I went from there to PBS Television where stayed for a very long time. I would really date myself, but I don’t mind. I stayed there almost 21 years in children’s programming, education and in children’s programming. And when the recession hit in ‘08, everything fell apart. Um, my job went away. And so, it was like, Okay, all right, let me try to reinvent myself like everybody was doing then. But I ended up staying in a nonprofit sector and started doing contract work with different agencies. And someone referred me to the Centre for Women and said that, you know, you might want to check them out. So, they reached out to me and I went over and started doing outreach. And then a position came open as the director of one of the Center for women’s program called the Center for Girls. And I just was adamant in my heart, I didn’t vocalize it during the interview was like, oh my god, do not do this anymore. I tried to run away from children. Try my best. I love them though. And they really are my passion. So, I said, Well, okay, I’ll take the interim director’s position. So interim for me is like 30 days. I set you up, I get you straight. And then I’m out of here. Well, that interim position turned into six years. So, I’ve been with the Centre for Women for six years and in December this past December 2019. After a lot of prayer, a lot of self-reflection, I decided I wanted to do something different. It wasn’t that I want did not want to work with children anymore. I just felt that I had already made I had made a strong enough impact that I could light someone else’s torch, not passing the torch, because when you pass the torch, you give up your light. So, I wanted to light the torch of someone else to take that position. And actually, that’s where Robyn and I met through the Center for Girls. So, I came over into career development our Tampa Bay Works for Women program. I didn’t know that our Women Building Futures program was a part of that. So here I am, knew nothing about career development. I knew nothing about the construction field, but like Robyn, I am, I want to say I problem solver. I’m a fixer, I want to try new things. I want to see how much of an impact I can make somewhere else. And maybe we’ll get into that later. So, I’ll save that response for another question. But this is where I am, and this is what I’m doing.
Scott Peper 8:23 Well, I’m looking forward to getting into that topic next and make sure that we remember I guide you back there if I don’t. You know, one question I want to ask you guys, I thought it would be interesting to start with, before I dive into some of the other topics is you guys have met a lot of people in and around construction, both at a young age, in the middle of the prime of their career, and it sounds like even towards the end of their careers. Can you give us maybe one or two traits or talents that you see are the real separators between people that make it and are successful in the construction or the people that just kind of get into construction and are just stay there and don’t leave to either develop their company or make it all the way through their career? And the reason I ask the question that way is we see so many folks in construction that sounds such a hard field and people come and go in and out of it. Businesses fail and succeed. Maybe a little bit different pace than other industries. I think a lot of construction gets a bad rap. But yet, there’s really some amazing talent that’s in construction, mostly because it is such a hard field innately in my opinion to succeed at. There’s so many more dynamics, there’s way more challenges whether they’re cash flow problems, people, labor or material but the sheer dollars of a project, and I really want to see what is it in your guy’s opinion from your perspective that makes someone more successful or less successful? What are those traits that you see?
Sartura Shuman-Smith 9:46 I’m going to, Robyn I’m going to definitely toss this off to you after I say my little piece. Before we started, I put a disclaimer out there Robyn is the expert and I’m still learning but I’m going to compare my background to where I am now. So, I’m going to use the comparison with what I’m doing. I remember when I left the school system, I honestly thought that there was nothing I could do but teach, you know, what else can I do? And when I got an opportunity to go interview at the TV station, I’m saying to myself, what in the heck am I gonna do at a television station, but that’s because I didn’t know anything about television or production or media. But when I got there, I started out in sales, working in sales, and then moved into education and outreach and children’s programming. So for me, I think a trait that leads to someone’s success, and I think in any area Robyn can expound on it, when it comes to construction—I think just thinking out of the box, thinking outside of the box that okay, I don’t have to stay in a classroom to educate. I don’t have to stay here just to do this or I don’t have to just be a welder, or I don’t have to just be in business. Masonry, I don’t have to just be and I think when people understand the areas that they’re in and really do soul searching and realize their own potential, and when they get into an area, it’s like, you know what, because I tell people all the time when I talk to them, you know, you don’t have to do just, and I’m putting that in quotes because it’s not a just feel, but you don’t have to just focus on that one area that you know, broaden your horizons, educate yourself, and be bold enough to say, hey, Scott, I’d like to learn this side of the construction business. What you all do Scott at your company, like oh, okay, alrighty, so this is something different in that whole big area of construction.
Robyn Donaldson 11:47 I’m taking notes.
Scott Peper 11:50 Robyn, what do you think?
Robyn Donaldson 11:52 Really, it boils down to what time do you wake up in the morning? I wake up at three o’clock. I think that that would be definitely a trait of a successful business owner is the sacrifices and the time that you’re willing to dedicate to your ultimate goal or your ultimate business. Also, who they associate themselves with, I always recommend being a part of a mastermind group. Associate with people who are on the same journey or someone who has already achieved the type of success that you’re looking for. And also, feed your mind. Feed your mind always improving yourself, whether it’s in your speech, your skill set, whatever it is always be. In that learning, I’m always in a learning type of mode. And I’m, also more importantly, just really know what you want to say that you want to be a business owner. Again, those are just words. Now you need Have a plan, and it needs to be written. And I also think that having an accountability partner, which is in part also associated with the mastermind group, just having someone who can hold you accountable for what you’re saying that you’re wanting to do, I think those three things really are key in the success of an entrepreneur or starting or and running your own business. One thing that I did want to mention your subconscious mind, your mindset, the way that you think the way that you’re approaching things. And I know sometimes it’s, it’s a little roadblock because if you’ve been an employee for so long, you know that if you work 40 hours, you have a paycheck on Friday. But the mindset of an entrepreneur is so different. You have to literally make it happen every day. Like there’s no days off. And again, those things I think combined is what separates successful entrepreneurs from those who are just talking about it.
Sartura Shuman-Smith 13:58 You’re right, I agree with you Robyn on that one. It’s the mindset It really is got it and I didn’t want to interrupt you but you really have to decide and make up that mind of yours to say this is what I’m going to do and attach yourself to people who are sincere about helping you to achieve that goal not don’t attach yourself to someone who you just think is this great one because of their reputation, or their name or their association but attach yourself to someone who really has no other reason but to support you and to guide you and bring you to the next level.
Scott Peper 14:37 You know you guys are really speaking my language now I’m glad this question is on air because my team internally and certainly Autumn for sure, I understand this, but you know, you guys, I couldn’t agree with you more. One mindset is everything talking about what you are going to do not what you’re going to try to do is we talked about all the time. One of our core values is be a lifetime learner. If you’re not educating your mind every single day, somehow advancing yourself, you’re going to get left behind. Things I personally believe, finding a mastermind, finding a group who you surround yourself with, there’s people I follow and really listen to. And one of the things that’s come out of my mastermind group I think is relevant to the to two things really, that are relevant to what you guys said. One is, when you look at your inner circle, who you’re surrounding yourself with the people, you’re closest to the five, so people you spend the most amount of time with, you’re going to be some version of those five people. And the other thing I learned, which is a little more harsh, but I think very relevant, they were said to me, You have to figure out what type of hard you want to participate in. What that means is life is all hard. You know, being broke is hard. Working hard is hard. Getting up at three in the morning is hard, you know, getting up at eight in the morning, getting sleep and then not getting anything done, which leads to you having extra work at night is hard. And you really just have to figure out what hard you want to participate in. Right Oh, Nothing’s easy. There’s no such thing. And when I heard that the first time, I made me think you know what? Yeah, there’s a right you got to take time and pause with your family and do fun things. But you got to get back to it too. You know and know how hard you work smartly with goals with a plan with a group that’s helping us you’re not just run around like a crazy person activity and calling yourself hard work. That is the key. So, I mean, I really think you guys touched on some really important key topics. And I’m glad we touched on that because you’re right, it is all mindset.
Sartura Shuman-Smith 16:32 Hey, can I add one more thing, Scott and Robyn, no word, but oh my gosh, please. And I know it’s easier said than done. And we probably do it ourselves. But I try to make a conscious effort to not say that you just don’t know how many people I’ve talked to. Now that were remote on the phone, who they immediately start telling me what they want to do. And before I can say, Okay, well let me before I can say I’m trying to help them but this but that but it is and I tell them okay, I’ve given you five times to say it now stop. You’ve just talked yourself completely out of everything that you just said you wanted to do everything that you said you wanted to do you say that there was a but there. I said you have to eliminate that but and because all you can get is either a yes or no so but is not even going to hurt. If you say I really want to do this Scott, but we’ll just ask Scott. Or Robyn I really would like to go into architecture but. All right, we’re gonna say is what? But I can’t say but I don’t have the experience. But Scott, I don’t know anything about finance. I that word but has to go.
Scott Peper 17:47 The only time you can use the word but is when you respond to someone with, look all those excuses sound really good, but I just don’t care. I just want you to be able to get it done and so do you like mom taught me when, when I was learning how to apologize, which I still working on. But anytime you say I’m sorry, but you just negate the entire column. Right? If you say if you’re gonna use the word, but just realize just Mazal just skip everything you just said it’s not worth anything. And I realized, you know, I like talking and not having it mean anything. So, I mostly just eliminate that word from my vocabulary.
Robyn Donaldson 18:25 No, but.
Scott Peper 18:26 We’ll change gears on you guys. You know, currently the in the construction workforce, women make up just over 9% of it, at least according to the US construction workforce. Anyway, from your guys experience, what are some of the challenges that you think women face specifically as they’re entering into the construction industry?
Sartura Shuman-Smith 18:42 Robyn, I’m always jumping first because I know my two cents will lead into your 10 cents, because that I know this much. But one of the things I feel is that and I’m quite sure Robyn will agree with is there’s not enough women in actual leave to shift positions. So, they’re not enough. I mean, there’s some powerful women because I’ve encountered some of them. Robyn is one of them that are doing their own thing and are successful. But I don’t think that there’s enough women in leadership positions to make those decisions to bring a more diverse group to an organization or construction firm. I think lack of Robyn spoke of her mentor right off the gate. I don’t think there’s enough mentorship and opportunities or apprenticeships. And women are not visible enough in the industry, that you may hear about an Ann McNeil or a Mercedes Young or a Robyn Donaldson but not everybody has the opportunity to actually be able to engage with those people or those individuals. So, I don’t think there’s enough visibility with women and construction. The other issue is the pay gap. And I’m quite sure we’ll maybe go into that later. But there’s still for me, I believe with everything now and it has. And I don’t really think this has anything to do with the current climate, I just still think there’s a lot of unconscious bias. When it comes to women. Being in a male dominated industry, like construction, people will look at someone and immediately say, Oh, you don’t look like you’re in construction. You know, right off the bat. Oh, you don’t look like you know, well, what does that look like? You know, what does that woman in construction look like? Because I remember one time I went somewhere, and I heard somebody used the term drive by images. And for me drive by images of what you see literally when you’re either driving by walking by, whether that’s on media, so you have these perceptions and ideas and notions of what a construction worker looks like. But people don’t realize, well, the construction industry is massive, and they’re all types of Like Robyn, architectural design and electrical, this and all of these big things, and I just don’t think there’s enough of that in our faces. So, I think for me, those are some of the issues that I think women are facing in the industry.
Scott Peper 21:15 You know, according to the National Association of Women in construction, the pay gap, one of the things you mentioned, it looks like about 5% 90, women earn about 95% of what men are in the same field. And although that’s five percent, a lot, it’s actually a lot higher in construction or closer aligning construction than it actually is in other industries, which I found interesting. I wouldn’t have guessed that or known that to be accurate. I wouldn’t have thought I was actually worse candidly than the other industries. Robyn, I’m interested to hear your opinion. What why do you what do you think of those items? Why do you think it’s closer to the pay gap? But also, why do you Why do you think what do you think keeps more women from getting into the construction field?
Robyn Donaldson 21:55 Okay, so let me set the scene for you, right. You go to school for four years. As you achieve a degree, you want to enter into the construction field, whether it’s as a project manager, estimator, or even a designer, but then you’re paid considerably less than your counterparts. And then in some instances, you have to deal with different types of abuse, just because you are a female in a male dominated industry. So that’s an employee side, and wanting to change that you want to become, let’s just say a business owner or that entrepreneur. So now I think that is twice as hard. Because now you’re literally competing with the big boys as they would say, and they really don’t want you in their arena. Like I’ve so many times I have my How can I say my experience has been questioned because I’m a female. And so, it’s just they don’t they don’t see you the same and in my experience, you know, I have had wonderful, wonderful relationships with amazing women like Trail Blazers like Anne MacNeil. And then being a part of the organization called NABWIC, which is the National Association of Black Women in Construction. The women are out there is just the opportunities. And then the exposure. You don’t you don’t readily see that in the construction field. And then you have the situation where you can become a certified minority in the construction industry, but again, is all of these roadblocks that you encounter. So, it is a little difficult. It is not for the weak. I mean, you have to have some, you have to have some really tough skin because you’re going to have opposition that’s above and beyond a 40-hour week.
Scott Peper 23:50 One of the things I think you touched on I, I talk a lot about I think the greatest things in life come from a place of uncomfortability. You know When you get outside the lines, I call nothing, nothing great happens in the middle, it’s all on the edges. You know, if you’re going to get something that that other people aren’t going to have, you’re going to be outside the normal bounds working hard, either working hard, focusing on something that no one’s seen before. And what I like a lot from a sales background, I used to sell things in the medical field into hospitals, the accounts I’d walk into that I could sell the same day, I certainly liked and enjoyed, but I also knew that they could be taken away from me in the same day too. It was the things that had the extra hurdle or that much harder or the conversation or the person that I had to break through or resonate with or build a relationship with. That made it that much harder. I knew it was gonna stick. And so, I analogize that a little bit to what you just mentioned, as hard as it is to get those certifications. There’s such tremendous opportunity there that I think if there’s a way to educate women, minorities or even men that are trying to be in this field, figure out a way to really take advantage of that hard because if you can crack through it, there’s so much opportunity. It’s like you get through the hard part. And then there’s, there’s a lot of there’s some easy there. How do you see people navigating through that, particularly if they can see the other side? That’s what’s hard. Sometimes you see this huge wall in front of you. But you don’t realize the other side might be a green pasture.
Sartura Shuman-Smith 25:22 I heard somebody say the other day—and Robyn, you can write this down—I know your note taker. I heard this the other day, and I loved it. It said you can’t climb a smooth mountain. Right. And that just resonated with me. So, I literally visualize this slick mountain. And so, you’re right. You cannot climb a smooth mountain. You know, there has to be something for you to grab on to hold on to get your bearings in your foot footing. And as much as we don’t want to say things are hard or we want things to be smooth sailing. It’s not going to be that. And I used to do a lot of on when I was at the television station I used to I used to do a lot of trainings and workshops and presentations and for me, the person who had the biggest scowl on their face, the person who looked like they were writing their grocery list down instead of listening to me. That is the person I decided I was going to gravitate to. I’m going to stand by you. I’m going to place my hand on your shoulder. I’m going to look at your name tag, and I’m going to call you out and you’re just going to become my best friend before the end of this presentation. It’s like, that’s the challenge. It’s like, you’re going to like me, Robyn, and I’m looking at your name tag, Scott, oh, you’re going to like what I have to say. But it’s that not giving up and not seeing that, that one, that one detour sign or that one roadblock sign and decide that you’re going to turn around? You know, that that is like, you know, I tell people all the time, why would I go 50 miles to turn around and go back another 50 miles and go back to where I started from. We’ll just keep on pressing and go the remainder of the distance which may be shorter than from where I came from. So that’s just my little bit of knowledge and wisdom.
Robyn Donaldson 27:11 Oh my gosh, she’s so special. Um, I just really, she I love her though. You have to love Sartura.
Robyn Donaldson 27:18 Reiterating what you mentioned before, Scott, that you just have to decide what hard you want to play, or how hard you want to play actually, because a 40 hour week is hard, you know? So, but you’re building someone else’s empires, someone else’s dream, dedicate those same 40 hours to know what you have going on your business goal. And then also, I had just wanted to mention that I think is very imperative again, to have a mentor or someone to assist you with your journey because again, it’s very, very hard. You’re going to have rejection at every angle. And I’ll say whether it’s to contractors, whether it’s insurance, because there’s a lot that goes into being an entrepreneur, so you may have the best business plan the finances in order, but there’s always something that’s going to throw you for a loop. And just be ready for that. And then when you do see, when things like that do take place, you keep going and you find strength to just keep going through whatever you’re going through because again, is part of the process. And, and again, I just love that you have to choose your heart, because now you’re taking hard and impossible or difficult out of the equation, you’re going into this knowing that you’re going to have problems is just deciding how you’re going to deal with them when they occur. You know, I wrote that one down. I like that one too. I like that one too. Just choose your options. You can choose how hard you want to go, you know with diversity in the certifications, again, that was a way that I had to strategize myself or maneuver through the construction industry. When you have a certification, they have to let you play, so to speak, they have to let you in the playground. Now whether they let you own a screening or even give you a push, it’s something totally different. But I mean, you have to start there. And there’s going to be so many. And I have to just keep saying this, because there’s going to be so many failures, there’s going to be so many obstacles. But once you pass that first obstacle, and you gain some momentum is just, it’s just really part of the process. Because I expect people to tell me no, the first second or third times, you know, I expect those things. So, it’s just maintaining the momentum despite any type of mishaps that may occur.
Scott Peper 29:52 You’ve mentioned mastermind and mentors and I think, you know, a lot of that is talked about, but can you do you have any that you recommend or how would it feel As someone said, you know what I really do need a mastermind I need to surround myself with the most important five people are going to help guide me. And then they say, where do I go find them? Do you have any suggestions or folks that you would recommend or people that you think are good masterminds or places to find those masterminds so that they can make that make a good decision there and then be guided in the right direction?
Robyn Donaldson 30:21 Yes. And that’s a great question. There’s so many, really depending on your industry, or even your interest. I know I started out with Meetup.com, which everyone knows whatever your interest is, you can just sign in, put in your zip code and your interest, and it’ll direct you to groups that have that same interest. And they meet all the time. So again, now you’re connecting with people who have the same interest. And then from that there’s a lot of mastermind, you can google mastermind, there’s construction mastermind groups linked has a lot of them. So, I would get really specific as to what area or industry that you’re looking for. And just find I would go on LinkedIn of Facebook has lots of them. I know the one that my mentor, every Saturday morning is called the International Mastermind Association. And that’s a guided mastermind because we use Napoleon Hills Think and Grow Rich book. And I’ve been involved with that mastermind group for some years. And we literally reread Think and Grow Rich over and over and over again. Of course, the words are the same, but we’re different every time we read it. I think I’ve read that book maybe like 17 times now. Wow. And each time I learned something different because I’m different. And again, networking, of find people who, again, you would like to be like and find someone Who can add value to what you have going on? And not, we don’t deal in the negatives or any subtractions. And then, and or you can create your own mastermind group. So as of late, of course, I’m into the STEM side of things. And I’ve just associated myself with a lot of tiny home builders, you know, anything, any, wherever my interest is, I’m going to find the best of the best person to pour into me. And, again, I hope I answer that question. But yeah, you can Google or IMA. There are so many different mastermind groups out there some that are free, then you have some mastermind groups that have a membership, that’s very costly. But just keep it in mind who’s going to be in that room, who you’re going to have the opportunity to listen, converse with. So, it just really depends on how deep you really want to go with it.
Scott Peper 33:00 Yeah. One thing I want to what you said that I think is really important when you go on this journey, it’s so easy to think what am I going to get? Let me evaluate all these What am I going to receive? But if you really start with this the mindset of what am I going to give? First, what is my contribution going to be to going, your mind changes and you will bring and attract to you and this is my belief, you will bring an attract to you the things that you need people who will see that if you think first about what you’re going to give and what you’re going to do and what you’re going to put forth. Everything else will show up for you if your mind is looking right where you want to go.
Robyn Donaldson 33:40 You know, that’s my tagline. I make a living from given.
Robyn Donaldson 33:45 And if you find how you can add value, whatever it is that you’re in search of, it’ll come back and I think that that has been my whole experience with STEM Exposure which is the non for profit summer camps. I just simply, I’m in service to others. That’s how I feel. I don’t ever approach anyone asking for anything. I asked them, how can I be a value to you?
Scott Peper 34:16 And that’s it. You know, you mentioned your stem exposure. That is one of the things I really want to talk about next is a great segue into that, that for what if anyone doesn’t know STEM is something that really exposes these students to these different types of career paths and where it’s at, but can you tell us more about your particular STEM Exposure Inc program, how it helps the students what it exposes them to, and just the program in general?
Robyn Donaldson 34:41 Well, you know, I’m smiling because I love talking about my kids. I love the kids. A stem exposure, as you mentioned, is a nonprofit organization and our mission is to expose minority students to underrepresented STEM careers. Architectural and design camp is our signature camp. It’s all about revolving around providing affordable housing options. So, our camp started back in 2018. I had an investor asked me to design some conceptual drawings to help revitalize East Tampa. So, I said, You know what, let’s get these kids to decide what they want their neighborhood to look like. And as a result, we started a summer camp. It’s a two-week camp, which we again expose kids to architectural design, development and the construction trades. And what happens after that second week is nothing but beautiful. So, the first camp we had was in 2018, and as a result of two students designs were selected and those houses were built in East Campus. So, we have students designing and building homes to revitalize East Tampa 2019 it was just a really overwhelming response to the channel. And what we, how can I say, to the camp of the impact that we had on the children and the fact that students ranging from third through 10th grade. Again, they’re actually learning how to design a home and then building it. And then so from 2019, we had the opportunity to have the camp at the glacier Children’s Museum in downtown Tampa, which was an awesome opportunity because it created the perfect atmosphere, you know, for STEM, the stem camp, of course, 2020 came up and we had six camps have scheduled but then COVID-19 hit, however not but however, birth to a virtual camp, online presence. And so since we again, we were featuring affordable housing for homeless veterans, we ventured off into the Tiny Homes and then When you think of Tiny Homes, who do you think of other than that different from Netflix, Tiny Home nation or operation tiny house. So what? I reached out to him, and he was our guest speaker, along with HGTV DIY. We had Schooley. We had all of the tiny home community, they just really poured into the students the first week, by talking to them about their design. They showed them the exterior and interior of their tiny home, which really just helped influence the students designs. And it was just really awesome. We have students from last year that really advanced toward architectural design. We brought those students in as instructors. So, we have students instructing students, which created a marvelous, wonderful, sustainable learning environment. We were also able to give students out for those instructors 1000 Dollar scholarships. And then 25 students’ participants, they received a $50 stifling. And that was from June the 15th through the 26th. And again, it was such an overwhelming response from the community. Zach says, Robyn, we have to do something with this. And so, August the 14th, through this past Friday, we had a global camp. We did a 2020 Tiny Home global virtual camp. This was a camp that we put together in the matter of a week and a half. And it was by far our best camp, because we had students all over the world participate. So, we had students from Philly, Argentina, Finland, and India. And also, we had a course we needed more instructors. So again, we reached out to the tiny home nation because they use SketchUp every day and they designed to Tiny Homes every day. So, Zach, he got on his IG. And he just announced it and we had a portion of instructors just volunteering. We had an instructor from India. It’s 5am. In the morning, we’re instructed but you know, she was still there. Then we reached out to SketchUp because we’re using their software. They became a sponsor. They gave all of our kids a free license, student pro version license.
Robyn Donaldson 39:28 I mean, it’s just like, I like it. Like he was just saying, once you just put something out there, the universe responds. And it was everything that we needed. It was given or answered in the way of in the inbox of email. We needed someone to assist with the flyers. We needed someone to assist with the website, and volunteers, volunteers, and I could sit here and tell you all about the case. But that’s the design side of it. On this summer, we were able to expose 120 students to architectural design and the construction trades. And they ranged from first grade to 12th grade. That’s awesome. Yes. And all virtual in is a two-week program. And the beautiful thing about the program is because of what it offers. First of all, it offers options to these students, because we feel that third grade is a crucial time for students, as well as the sixth grade, which is where they choose their electives. So, we can reach these kids early on and give them some options. Now they can choose you know, their electives accordingly. Again, like I said, that’s the design side. The building component of that is that we’re wanting to build these Tiny Homes for these homeless veterans and I reached out to her are wonderful, the city of Tampa and there’s some lots that are allocated It Well, we can actually build these tiny homes and to help with acquiring those lots. There’s a campaign that we’re kicking off September the first. And Scott, you can really help us out with this win by spreading the word is a global ask in this called Give a Buck for housing. So, we’re asking everyone, all 8 million people who lived in, in the world, we’re just asking them to donate $1. And that would be to acquire the property and the building for a homeless village for our veterans here in Tampa, Florida. And it’s just, um, I think is a wonderful concept because all lives matter. And we’re encompassing so many, many lives, because again, we’re exposing the students more importantly, we’re letting them know that all things are possible. All things are possible, and then we’re guiding them and then also We’re looking at the veterans who has, I can tell you about the veterans and then how important this is for them to have a home. And for these students to be able to design and to build. We have a lot of businesses, our sponsors who have just jumped on board to help me you know, make it a reality. So, that’s really STEM Exposure in a nutshell.
Scott Peper 42:27 I think that’s really awesome. I could see that being very successful.
Sartura Shuman-Smith 42:31 Let me jump in and something else you can
Robyn Donaldson 42:32 Alright, come on, jump in. Let’s do this. You know, when we’re mastermind and right now, you know that right? We’re mastermind, this is what we do.
Sartura Shuman-Smith All right. everything you just said is amazing, amazing. And so, once these little ones grow up and become women, we can enroll them and the Women Building Futures initiative at the Center for Women. So, if I have an opportunity I can want to just share about that program as well. Robyn is actually if—when we start, I won’t say if. When we are able to start the program of women building futures is our construction initiative for women. And it’s a 16-week program and women learn various areas of construction from carpentry, drywalling, electrical, even the administrative side of construction. And after that 16 weeks they receive a NCCER certification as well as the OSHA 10 certification. Um, the program is amazing and has been in just a viable part of our community for the past, I want to say five years. Well, before I came into that position, and actually garnered national attention from the today’s show, at the end of 2019, the program had been fully funded, but the funding went away. And so that’s been our biggest struggle is how we’re going to get these women in a program that was once free and now it’s going to have to have a cost associated if we do not get support or funders or sponsors. So, I think Robyn was actually one of the contract facilitators for the program. And it’s amazing how what during this pandemic, of course, I get calls on a daily basis about people looking for jobs or looking for career development, but at least five calls a week are for the women building futures program. And we talked about how just opportunities I had a call from a woman last week, who’s actually a teacher, she teaches Language Arts in Italy, but because of COVID, she can’t go back to Italy. So, she said during this downtime, I would love to learn construction. And I see you have the women building futures program. And I said well, because of COVID. You know, we are not able to do this face to face, the location that we had been doing. It is not back open yet. That’s HCC. But we have currently two positions available. So, I’m putting that plug out there. We have two positions right now for two crew members with our construction services program, and if somebody wants to email me, I’m going to say really quickly, it’s my first initial S. And my last name Smith s.smith, at the centre, thecentre.org. Email me and I will refer your information over to our HR program, but we’re looking for two people to work in construction to be a part of the crew. And this woman as I called her back, as I know, you want to downtown right now and I know you wanted to take the class, but would you be willing to apply for the position? What better way to learn, then right there doing that? So, we have people in the program? I think Robyn can attest to this. We’ve had people who were in the program previously, who graduated, get their certification and start have their own construction businesses, or their own handy woman, businesses. Actually, the person who is my go-to for everything here at this house was an employee of the Center for Women in the senior Home Improvement ship construction services, and also participated in the women building futures classes. So, there’s so many opportunities out there to support the efforts that everybody’s out there dealing to. And I just think it’s amazing, amazing what you’re doing with the kids it is I mean, having worked with kids pretty much all my life, it’s just amazing that they’re being given the opportunities to think out of the box to explore other opportunities and to know that they’re, they don’t have to just be you know, whatever it is they might have thought they want it to be or how they can expand or broaden that. So, working with kids working with women and nontraditional job setting is just amazing, because like I said, at least five calls a week are women who Want to build into construction? So, just want to plug that in there real quick.
Scott Peper 47:05 Um, you guys have been so gracious with your time I just realized we’ve talked now almost an hour already. And I just want to make sure before we let you guys go, is there anything else that you guys want to touch on or talk about or that we missed that? I don’t want anyone to not get from you guys while we’re here, at least this first call, maybe hopefully we can do this again. As new things come out and we keep rolling down the road.
Sartura Shuman-Smith 47:27 I Oh, I’m sorry, Robyn. I had a couple of notes that were we talking about women going into non-traditional jobs or young people wanting to go into STEM. And just having those mentors I just think being able to, I think everything starts within the company. I know we talked earlier about what does one do to get someone to see them. But I think it starts within the company, get your company to understand that there are women that there are young people who may want to go into this field, so make it available to them. Change your marketing, you know, when you see billboards or signage, you know make sure you have a diverse marketing plan or, or advertisement in your fliers. net. Provide networking opportunities, like Robyn said with meetup, provide networking opportunities for people to, you know, meet a Scott or Autumn or Robyn Donaldson or Sartura. Make those opportunities available and just educate. You know, the education has to start within the organization. If, you know contractors or construction firms want to hire women, to educate the people that are with you, so that they can speak the language and when I say speak the language when they go out and start talking about what’s going on at their companies or what they’re looking for, or who they’re looking to hire. They can know that well. Yes, no, we are hiring women. We are hiring young graduates, you know high school graduates who want an apprenticeship So, um, and again, you know, research, you know, people should research that’s how out and found me by researching women in construction and found out about our women building futures program and then found out about the Center for Women. So it’s just, you know, getting the word out and working together. I think collaboration is the greatest.
Robyn Donaldson 49:22 Well, there’s three things that I always say is a formula for success, right? So, number one, is to know what you know. Number two, know someone who knows what you don’t know. And number three, that’s all you need to know. And that is going out to all of the women who want to start a business may not know exactly what direction to take. Just know what you know. And do not worry about what you don’t know. Because that’s a big roadblock. And a lot of women becoming successful they feel that they don’t have all that is needed. And in order to do so, however, you just simply find someone who knows what you don’t know. And nine times out of 10 that should be a person of your mastermind group. And, again, just associating yourself with like-minded people. As far as the kids are concerned, and STEM Exposure, spread the message, spread the word and what we’re trying to do with these students, because it’s a game changer. I was speaking with, her name is Teresa Welch at the Boys and Girls Club. And she says, Robyn, you’re doing something that there hasn’t been a school can do. I was like, Okay, what is that? What does that she said you’re able to teach a student 1st through 12th grade, a software that they have never used before in a two week period, and then they can turn around and make money that next day which is really what the program does. And because, I mean, we’re using the program for architectural design. But these kids have an opportunity to use a software where they can create anything. Knowing that all things have a beginning, you can learn how to design. So again, it’s just really exposing these kids to different options. And again, letting people know what it is that we’re doing. So we can impact more people. The whole mission is, of course, to expose but also to revitalize communities. And we can do that by the participation and the assistance that we get from our sponsors. So just sharing the word and I’ll get back with you on that given up for housing. But that definitely, we want that to definitely happen so we can house some homeless veterans.
Scott Peper 51:50 I gotta thank you guys so much. I’ve really learned a lot, I hope and I think most of our audience will too. And I just really want to thank you guys again for taking the time and for what you do. Both of you are very generous. Just with your time and your efforts and your energy, and I can see why your organizations are and will be successful even further. And anything we can do myself personally and our team will definitely help you do for sure.
Sartura Shuman-Smith 52:10 Thank you. Thank you for having us.
Robyn Donaldson 52:14 Yes. Thank you so much for having us.
Scott Peper 53:00 You’re welcome, everybody. I hope you guys enjoyed this. Thank you very much, sir. Thank you, Robyn. And as always, Autumn I appreciate your help on this too. And everyone, have a great day. We look forward to seeing you again next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai