Women in Construction: 1901, Inc.

1901, Inc. has been in business for over 100 years. Starting in 1901, they design, build, install, and service Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), and Plumbing systems for commercial, industrial, and residential applications. 1901, Inc.’s reputation throughout the industry and with their customers is doing the job right the first time.

Melissa Wood, 1901, Inc.

Madison Area Mechanical and Sheet Metal Contractors Association (MSC) and Madison Association of Plumbing Contractors (MAPC) are featuring the women of 1901, Inc. as part of Women in Construction Week, March 3-9, 2019.

Strong and confident are the two words that come to mind when describing the women of 1901, Inc. The environment that the company has created has empowered these women to succeed.

Melissa Wood started her career in the construction industry in 1995, and is currently the Controller for 1901, Inc. She got her start in the industry 24 years ago when a friend’s dad worked for a builder and found her a job.

“Visiting a jobsite to see the progress the field crew has made,” Melissa said is the most rewarding aspect of her career. “It gives you a whole new appreciation for the trades when you can see what they can accomplish.”

Brandi Johnson, 1901, Inc.

Brandi Johnson is a sheet metal worker with the company and has 10 years of experience in the industry.

“I enjoy physical labor, working with my hands, and financial stability,” Johnson explained why she was drawn to the construction industry.

Elizabeth Schneider is in the fourth year of her plumbing apprenticeship and enjoys the opportunity to learn a useful skill, and making good money while doing it.

As a sophomore in high school, Ali Burke was drawn to the construction industry when she volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and helped build six houses.

“Taking a building from concept to creation has always brought me joy,” explained Burke, a Project Manager and Engineer for 1901, Inc.

After taking a welding class at Madison College, KB Amador knew she wanted to be more than just a manufacturer.

“I really wanted a career where I could use my mind and body,” shared Amador, a Steamfitter Apprentice. “I need to be a problem solver and a hard worker. Team work is very important in steamfitting, and (my foreman and I) make a good team.”

The women of 1901, Inc. are not only breaking barriers, they are making history too.

“When I worked highway construction, I became the first female foreman in the company’s history, and they’ve been around over 100 years,” expressed Johnson.

Size, gender, age, and capabilities have come in to question for these women during their career.

KB Amador, 1901, Inc.

“Some people are surprised when they see me on the job site and aren’t sure how to act or avoid me,” said Amador. “They usually come around though.”

Some men think Johnson is not capable of doing her job, until they see her in action.

Schneider explained, “I get frustrated when because of my size, I’m not able to be as strong as I’d like to be. I have gained a lot (of experience and strength) over the years through hard work and sticking with it. Just recently, I discovered I could lift a 10-foot piece of six-inch cast iron, over 100 pounds, on my own. The frustrating part is watching guys twice my size being able to do this with ease.

Wood shared that she has had a hard time being taken seriously, and was told that women do not know anything about construction when they do.

Burke has faced the challenge of not only being a woman, but being young as she has been with 1901, Inc. for the last four years.

“When I am on the phone or in person talking with guys, sometimes they talk super slow or explain small details that I already understand,” explained Burke. “It frustrates me when I haven’t asked them to slow down or explain in detail. I can’t tell if that is because I am a woman or because I am young.”

There have also been times that Burke gives input or new ideas in a meeting, and does not get a response. But then a man presents the same idea and everyone thinks it is a great idea. These occurrences happened with people that Burke has not worked with before, or they do not know they are doing it.

“It frustrates me, because, one, we could have reaped the rewards of implementing this idea earlier, and, two, because why could I not convince them of this,” said Burke.

Each day, everyone faces challenges at work, and these women take them as opportunities to learn.

Ali Burke, 1901, Inc.

“There are a lot of people, both men and women, who have made a huge impact on me in this industry, and have helped me to get to where I am today,” expressed Burke. “I am very grateful for what they have done. I also want to thank all these men and women for taking me under their wing from day one.”

Amador shares, “It’s hard work. A lot of my job is about confidence, and being able to accept who you are, and what you can do. If you want to go far in the construction trades, you should start by making sure you are truly comfortable with yourself and who you are. There’s no better way to get ahead by doing this whether you’re a woman or a man.”

Wood is proud to drive the streets of Madison and see all the projects that 1901, Inc. has worked on and the important role women had in completing the buildings.

“Women do belong in the construction industry,” exclaimed Wood. “It is enjoyable to work toward building something and driving down the streets of Madison saying, ‘our company worked on that building or that project.’”

Elizabeth Schneider, 1901, Inc.

Schneider’s advice is that it is not easy, but it’s worth it, and Johnson just wants women to go for it.

“DO IT!!!” Johnson said. “Give it your best, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Burke’s advice to women thinking about joining the construction industry, is to get a little taste of it first, and see which trade suits them best.

“I would say for anyone interested in any career, job shadow people in different positions within the industry” shared Burke. “Then apply for internships, so you can test the waters. Both men and women in this industry are very welcoming and willing to answer questions. You will probably be shocked, but the number one tip I have for you is to be kind to everyone you meet. Caring about others and helping them achieve their goals is vital in this industry.”