Building Women: Blair Pan
The construction workforce has always been made up of a myriad of different ethnicities, nationalities, ages, races, and religions. One area that is recently gaining ground is gender.
While the majority of the workforce is still made up of men, women are becoming more common and impactful in the construction industry.
Women can be found throughout various areas of the construction industry and their numbers are growing.
A prime example of the impact a woman can make in the industry is Blair Pan, Project Manager at 30 Hudson Yards for Tishman – an AECOM company. Blair was born in Taiwan and became passionate about building and construction at a very young age. Her father was an artist who worked in the trades to earn money for the family and would take Blair to work with him occasionally. She values those times with her father and her early exposure to the construction industry.
Growing up, Blair had a dream of moving to America, where everything is possible.
Living in the US not only allowed her to use her scholarships to attend Columbia, it also made it possible for her to work in the construction industry. Going to school in the US helped her overcome the language barrier she experienced when she first arrived and gave her access to a network that landed her a first job with a small engineering consulting firm. There, she began to learn the basics of construction management by doing estimates and scheduling for pre-construction phase projects. Blair had applied at AECOM Tishman, as well, and didn’t hear back from their HR department until 2 years later, where she was ultimately offered the position of APM/PM with Hudson Yards. She has been with Tishman for nearly 4 years. This writer had an interesting and inspiring conversation with Blair Pan.
JB: I am interested in how you got to where you are now. What inspired you to get into the construction field?
Blair Pan: When I was 7, the Barbie doll house was all over TV commercials. My family couldn’t afford it because it was an imported product and would cost my father a month’s worth of paychecks. I wanted it so badly, so I gathered all kinds of material in the house that I can use and started building my first Barbie doll house based on what I’ve seen on TV and in my imagination. I used the cardboard to be the enclosure of the house. I used the rubber bands from the bento box and bundled up a few chopsticks to be the columns supporting the house. I cut out the tissue box and make it to a roof. It was then I discovered my interest in building construction. I still have the passion and curiosity about this industry like when I was 7. I wake up everyday and feel very excited about going to work, because there is no routine in construction, everyday you have different challenges and unexpected problems/issues coming to you and you solve it and you can see the result right away. What really excites and intrigues me from work is that I feel my suggestions are impactful and my value is tangible.
JB: What is the difference in working in the Asian and American industries, from the standpoint of being a woman?
Blair Pan: I think America is pretty evolved in terms of promoting gender equality compared to Asia. That’s why I decided to stay in the States - more opportunities. JB: What has been your biggest challenge in managing core and shell construction?
Blair Pan: In my opinion, it is the unexpected weather - extremely windy - and dealing with cold weather. We’ve experienced more work stoppage than we anticipated initially due to weather conditions in Hudson Yards. When cranes and hoists are not allowed to work then no one can work, which causes schedule delays. Our work requires minimum temperatures when placing concrete and spray on fireproofing. During winter, we lose a handful of working days due to extremely low temperatures. JB: Is being a woman an asset in the field?
Blair Pan: I think it all depends on the mindset you have. I am naturally a very optimistic person. I like to turn any negative energy into the fuel to move forward. Also, I believe the key to success is to work hard and work smart. People naturally assume all work in construction is heavy lifting and requires a lot of muscle, which is not true anymore. Utilizing the new tools and equipment that have been introduced to the industry helps everyone to work smart. I do believe being a woman in the field is definitely an advantage because women are naturally equipped with many soft skills that help us thrive, such as communication and people skills.
JB: What advice would you give to anyone - or specifically a woman - who wants to work in the construction industry?
Blair Pan: I see the cultural shift in the construction industry. More and more women have joined the industry with shared goals. It is a challenging and rewarding industry that allows you to pave your own way. Construction has changed my life and helps me build my confidence. I am not afraid of speaking up in front of a full room of men - instead, I have the confidence to lead, to motivate and to inspire people around me.