“Fear and faith cannot reside in the same heart”, that’s my life motto says Catrina, a construction project manager and founder of Black Women In Construction, an Instagram account and website where you can purchase Catrina’s line of apparel to support her mission of building community for women like herself.
“People don’t realize that most times there’s only one woman on an entire site, or only one black person”, says Catrina, “representation matters and I want people to feel like they aren’t alone when they visit @blackwomeninconstruction.
Catrina began her career in construction around seven years ago while enrolled at the New Jersey Institute of Technology for a degree in concrete industry management and construction management. She excelled in her classes and earned herself a spot among eight talented individuals, chosen from all around the world, to work with the Concrete Preservation Institute on a 3 million dollar restoration project for Alcatraz Island. Located in San Francisco Bay, 1.25 miles offshore from San Francisco, California, Catrina was flown across the country to participate in its restoration. “We did everything from demo, to making blueprint plans, to building concrete forms,” says Catrina, “it was my first job and a great experience”.
After the job was complete, Catrina returned home to New Jersey with a renewed sense of confidence, knowing that the hard work she put in had provided her with a well-rounded skill set. However, although she had navigated her path into construction successfully on her own, Catrina decided to look for a mentor who could provide guidance for her new profession. After multiple referrals to a well known, successful black woman in construction, who was local to her in New Jersey, Catrina reached out to see if this highly recommended woman would be willing to mentor and guide her. Unfortunately, instead of being greeted with an opportunity to learn and grow, she was rejected and left completely disappointed. “I was crushed”, recalls Catrina, “everyone kept telling me to reach out to this woman and she flat out said no.” But Catrina did not let this negative experience stop her faith in women empowering other women. “It’s partly what motivated me to start @blackwomeninconstruction”, says Catrina. “Women can become like mean girls”, she says. “We need a tribe that can encourage each other to stop doubting ourselves and have faith in what we are doing”, she insists.
The Instagram page is a collection of curated content that encourages conversation about everything from money to sex to job opportunities, thoughtfully covering topics that encompass who black women in construction are in their entirety. By encouraging honesty and transparency, she hopes to provide a platform that allows for natural expression. “We are limited to how much we are able to express ourselves on site”, adds Catrina, “for years, [black women] have been told to stay quiet, don’t ask questions and don’t ask for a raise.” However, after a lifetime of fearlessly going after what she wants, she knows that not speaking up for yourself can result in getting caught up in the disparities of inequality. “Sometimes it feels like I have been doing a thousand times more than everyone else”, says Catrina. It’s a premonition that proved true after learning that she was indeed being paid nearly 18% less while overseeing a larger workload than another female project manager by a previous employer.
Catrina has been championing the efforts of amplifying black voices through her page for some time now. “The Black Lives Matter movement is bringing to light what I have been saying for so long”, she remarks. And although she is hopeful for the positive change that Black Lives Matter will bring, Catrina is not slowing down her own efforts to encourage and inspire the women around her. In addition to her Instagram page and apparel, she is working on adding more content to Black Women in Construction’s website, and co-hosts Think Like a Boss NYC, a motivational business and lifestyle podcast lead by renowned entrepreneur, Alexandra Bernard-Simmons.