In honor of Women’s History Month 2019, Paducah Bank is lifting up local women who are crafting their own personal history in our community.
Ines Rivas-Hutchins is one of those women. She wants women who think working in the construction industry isn’t for them . . . to think again. Ines is the living proof they can succeed.
For the past three years, Ines has been at the helm of INTEC Group, LLC, the Paducah company she founded specializing in construction services to the Federal Government including the U.S. Department of the Army, U.S. Air Force, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Considered one of Western Kentucky’s top woman-owned government contractors, INTEC Group has successfully managed over 100 federal projects with contract values in excess of $50 million dollars.
Growing up, Venezuelan born Ines’ twin passions were art and building things. Once in the states, she parlayed those interests along with an educational background in architecture into her first construction management job in the residential sector. From there she moved into commercial construction management before identifying her true sweet-spot: government contracting.
It was peanut butter meets jelly.
“People always ask me how is it working in a man’s world,” she said. “They assume it’s been a negative thing. Personally, I have never experienced discrimination because I’m a woman. Men operate on respect in the construction world. Once they know you are capable, they respect you.”
While Ines acknowledges the construction game is in fact the most male-dominated industry in the world, perhaps less obvious are the plusses for women working within that industry.
“The pay gap is smaller, on average, when you look at what women are earning,” she said. “They are coming closer to making as much money as men. It’s the biggest advantage,” she observes. “You are working in a man’s industry but you are often being paid as much they are.”
Which is not to say there aren’t inequities.
Those are issues Ines hopes to help address when she attends the Women Build America conference in Washington D.C. in March. There she will visit The Hill to meet with lawmakers in the hope of persuading them to support legislation to further level the playing field for all women. “We want to increase women-owned small business set-aside contracts,” she said. “And we want the government to open more competition to women.”
Asked what advice she’d give women hoping to break into the industry, Ines is quick to answer. “Get your foot in the door, and show what your strengths are,” she counsels. “Don't be intimidated by a room full of men. In fact, most of my mentors in the industry have been men. As women, we have great qualities of organization and we are team players which I believe is our number one asset,” she said. “Start by building their trust. Ask questions. Listen to the answers and admit that you're still learning. Men respect that. You earn respect. It's not something that you can demand from the men working around you,” she said. “Once you get a seat at the table, then show ‘em what you got.”