Women in Construction Week – Joselin Martin

Amber Ramsey News

Name and Company: Joselin Martin, Former CFO for Hayles and Howe, Inc, Current Owner and CEO of True North CFO, LLC

Title: Senior Vice President

Years in the industry: Over 20 years

What made you want to join the construction industry? 

The choice was actually made for me.  My grandfather gave my mother her first rental units for her 16th birthday.  Not long after she married my father, they started a business where she ran the rental units that he built.  They later expanded to building spec houses.  My brother and I each started working with them before the age of 10.  He worked on the construction side, and I worked with the bookkeeper.  I studied theoretical economics in college, but ended up being recruited by a national accounting firm.  Without really thinking about it, I ended up on the construction audit team!  I left and worked for a design-build company in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  The owner also had an HVAC service company, so even though I was the accounting manager, I had to take my turn on call for the off-hour emergencies, and learned more about HVAC systems (and pagers!) than I ever wanted to. 

I tried to get away from construction again by returning to school for advanced economic degrees, even then my research turned to construction.  I finally gave up and returned to Hayles and Howe ornamental, where I just retired as CFO after 20 years.  I started my consulting firm, True North CFO, in January with the intent of serving small and medium private companies of all types, but – surprise! – have found myself working with contractors and their suppliers yet again!

What does being a woman in construction mean to you?

 It has been wonderful to show younger women that there is a place for them in the construction industry.  In construction, working in the accounting department usually means that you have the opportunity to see all aspects of the company, and to be able to provide information that makes a significant difference in operational decisions.  When I was starting in the industry, there weren’t many women in the field.  It is so inspiring to me to see young women coming in and not just being limited to the office.  I love talking to women who are project managers, estimators, architects, and safety officers.  I hope that maybe I made their paths just a little easier.

How can you help educate young women that may be considering entering the industry or that don’t know about opportunities in the industry?

Thirty years ago, I moved to Dallas and was looking to enter the real estate development industry, so I did an informational interview with a developer friend of my father’s.  I quickly realized what was not being said in the meeting.  The friend did say it to my father – I was highly qualified but would never find a job in that industry because I was a girl.  I never want again want to hear that story out of a young woman’s mouth.  I have spent most of my life since then trying to make the construction world I live in to be one that is always accessible to women, by showing that I am capable and by calling out language and assumptions that reinforce the old stereotypes.

I am a subscriber to the theory that what you see you can believe.  Women and girls need to see women working successfully in the construction industry to be able to see themselves in that role.  So the first thing I can do is to introduce them to those women working in the industry.  The Women of ABC Committee provides opportunities to connect with those women.  I have also used my network to connect women to opportunities to connect and shadow successful women working throughout the industry. 

I am confident that the future for women in construction is bright, and I will always work to making sure that the door is open – we just need to help them walk through it!