Construction isn’t what it used to be, and Amy Matthews couldn’t be happier about it.
Matthews, who has made a name for herself hosting renovation and home improvement shows on HGTV and the DIY Network, is also a licensed general contractor and was the featured guest at OSU Institute of Technology’s Women In Technology event on Nov. 6.
During a question and answer session in front of nearly 120 high-school age girls and young women, Matthews spoke about how she got into the construction business, where she hopes the future of the industry is going and what role women will play in that future.
“There needs to be more women in the field, it’s really simple that way, and women are accepted so much more now,” she said. “There are so many different opportunities in construction. There’s the trades where you get your hammer out and get dirty. There are also women who are project managers on construction sites, there are women-owned businesses in the construction industry. It’s a really exciting field and it’s an exciting time.”
Sable Vasquez, Prospective Student Services’ special events coordinator, said Women in Technology aims to introduce young women to hands-on technical career fields they may have never thought about before. This year’s event emphasized careers in the construction industry and OSUIT’s School of Construction Technologies programs.
“The purpose of the event is to give young women a peek into career fields that are traditionally male-dominated,” Vasquez said. “Our partners in these industries are demanding highly skilled female technicians, so I think it’s important that we keep showcasing the programs at OSUIT that are STEM focused and available to women.”
During her presentation, Matthews also spoke about her interest in emerging green building practices that increase sustainability and energy efficiency that are popping up in more and more U.S. construction sites.
“We’re years behind the practices in Europe and other places in the world and we should be leading it because of all our resources,” she said. “There’s a tendency to not want to change a practice because it takes time reteach everyone on your team and invest in the materials and equipment. There are people doing it and it’s changing, but slowly.”
Matthews also spoke about the unexpected path her career has taken. She went to college and studied music and acting. It wasn’t until an audition 10 years ago for the show “Bathroom Renovations” that she capitalized on her background as a performer as well as her building and home improvement experience as a teen and young adult.
“I knew my way around a tool belt because of my work with Habitat for Humanity projects when I was young,” she said, and that edge is what got her started on her career in construction.
Vasquez said that lesson is something young women and girls need to hear.
“I thought Amy was great. She really let the high school girls know that it’s OK if your professional plans and dreams don’t go the exact way that you hope. There is beauty in the journey, and you may end up doing something you never imagined,” she said.
Working in a traditionally male industry like construction, Matthews said her biggest obstacle was herself.
“Being in a male-dominated field, there were so many opportunities for me to second guess myself. You have to have confidence in yourself,” she said. “None of us were born knowing how to walk or to talk. We tried, we fell down, we said the wrong thing and then we figured it out. It’s really the same thing in construction. You have to do it and you won’t do it right the first time. You just have to try it until you figure it out.”