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UA Little Rock Graduate Encourages More Women to Enter the Construction Industry

Photo of Godze Gursoy by Ben Krain.
Photo of Godze Gursoy by Ben Krain.

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock graduate is exploring how to attract more women to enter Arkansas’s growing construction industry.

Gozde Gursoy, a native of Izmir, Turkey, will graduate with a Doctor of Education in Higher Education Administration from UA Little Rock.

Already a senior instructor in the Department of Construction Management & Civil & Construction Engineering, Gozde has big plans for her career in higher education.

“I have been teaching for eight years, but my goal is to go into administration to become a chair and dean,” she said. “It occurred to me that I need to understand higher education as a whole. I wanted to learn about how to be more effective in the classroom. I am so glad I chose this as a degree. I feel like getting the doctorate has made me a better teacher and facilitator.”

Gursoy decided to attend college in Arkansas after living with a great host family during high school who encouraged her to go to college in the U.S. She earned a bachelor’s degree in interior design from the University of Central Arkansas before joining UA Little Rock to complete a Master of Science in Construction Management degree.

After working as an interior designer at Williams & Dean Architects and a lighting designer for Curtis Stout Inc., Gursoy branched out to start her own lighting and interior design company, G2 Lighting Design, in 2020. She’s won multiple awards for her designs and worked on notable Arkansas properties, including the Old State House Museum and Esse Purse Museum in Little Rock and the Dyess Colony Visitor Center and Johnny Cash Boyhood Home.

“It’s been really nice to practice professionally as well as be a professor,” Gursoy said. “Especially in our field, you need to keep one foot in the professional world. It’s an ever-changing industry, and it’s a lot of fun to practice while you are a professor.”

After noticing how few women work in the construction industry, Gursoy wrote her dissertation, “A Phenomenological Study of Best Strategies to Attract Young Arkansas Females to the Commercial Construction Industry among Arkansas Females Presently Working in the Commercial Construction Industry.”

She interviewed women leaders working in the construction industry in Arkansas. Her study identified and examined the barriers women face entering and working in the industry and initiatives that promote equality in the field of commercial construction in Arkansas.

“This is one of the fields where it’s untraditional for a woman to want to enter,” Gursoy said. “Women in the United States only make up about 13% of construction management employees. Speaking with other women who participated in my study, I found it’s very common for a woman to be discouraged, disrespected, or people make remarks about her appearance instead of her skills. It takes the spotlight away from her talent. I call these women trailblazers, and they really are just by being present in the construction field.”

Gursoy recommends that we should use educational programming and events that promote construction as a viable career to women at an earlier age. She points to the Vilonia Pathways Academy Conversion Charter, a charter school that partners with UA Little Rock and provides a construction education at the high school level, as a great example. Gursoy worked on the curriculum design for the program.

“It’s really interesting because we are seeing a construction-focused degree at the high school level and seeing how many students want to become construction professionals,” Gursoy said.

Gursoy also recommended conducting research with younger students to find out what makes construction attractive as a career and providing women in the construction industry with mentors throughout their college and careers.

“I looked at a study for 9-12-year-olds, and 60 percent of respondents said they think construction is a man’s job,” Gursoy said. “The unconscious bias is embedded so deep that young children think this is not an occupation for women. Twenty percent of my participants were the first female hires in their companies, and that is just mind boggling to me. We have to put women at the forefront of this industry, so all people feel like they belong in the construction field.”