Shattering Glass Ceilings in the Construction Industry
Don't tell Tam Landis that "women don't do that." In high school, she was the only girl in her shop class, and by age 19 she was framing houses. She was the first female graduate of UWF's Industrial Technology Engineering program, which has since evolved into the Construction Program. Eventually, she became the UWF Building Code Administrator; and in June 2008, Tam Landis shattered another barrier in the male-dominated construction industry when she was appointed President of the Building Officials Association of Florida (BOAF). Landis is the first woman to serve as president of BOAF, founded 56 years ago. The association is dedicated to the building code enforcement profession with the goal of fostering communication between all groups associated with the construction industry.
I earned a B.S. degree in Industrial Technology in 1981. I chose UWF because I had to earn a living while I attended school; I could not afford to relocate to UF or FSU. I took some day classes, some night classes, and I waited tables and pumped gas in between. Bless former President Jimmy Carter because my last 1-1/2 years of classes were paid for by a Basic Equal Opportunity Grant. It took me 6 years to accomplish a 4-year degree, but it might have taken longer without the grant.
I chose industrial technology because I was always mechanically inclined and interested in construction and technology. I wanted to be an engineer, so the industrial technology program was as close as it got. After I earned my AA degree at PJC, I registered at UWF (UWF was only for juniors and seniors back then). The campus was so beautiful…still is. When I entered the program, I was the only female in all my classes.
The degree I earned definitely benefited me in that it prepared me for the venue I would choose for my career path. First I worked for Gulf Power Company and was the only female engineering representative. I met with prospective owners and builders and figured out how to provide power to them. Then I worked for a couple different contractors and eventually entering the regulatory realm with the City of Pensacola for 13 years. Ultimately, I came back to UWF and seized the opportunity and challenge of setting up UWF’s first Building Code Administration program, which is a state-mandated requirement.
As soon as I entered the regulatory field I joined Building Officials Association of Florida (BOAF). I am now the BOAF President. It has been a long trek, something I worked toward for years.
UWF now has a Construction Engineering program that I think is great. I’ve assisted in facilitating online classes and been a guest speaker for some classroom classes, and I highly recommend the program to anyone who may be interested. A couple of years ago, that program fostered the first Construction Camp for Girls, where we used a hands-on approach to teach 8- 12-year-old girls all about tools.