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Stevenson leads the way
Today, women are playing an increasingly important role in the construction sector – from crane operators to company owners.
American crane and heavy haulage contractor, Stevenson Crane Service Inc. from Illinois is a shining example of this. Not only is it one hundred percent woman owned, it is also managed by women. Donna Stevenson is President and owner of the company and has been a Liebherr customer for many years. For this LinkedIn article, we chatted to her not only about the next delivery, but also about courage, motivation and success.
Mrs Stevenson, tell us a little about the history of your company. When and how did everything start?
Donna Stevenson: We have been in business since 1989, with one 35 ton crane parked in our driveway. At that time, my house was worth 60,000 dollars and my house payment 250 dollars per month. The first crane cost 273,000 dollars and the payments were 3,472 dollars per month. As we had no credit for a purchase like this, we had to put the house as collateral and pay 12.5 percent interest. Needless to say, there were many sleepless nights.
Currently, we have over 1,100 pieces of equipment, with our fleet centered around our Liebherr cranes. We have added a rigging division with a complete line of machinery moving equipment, as well as an in-house engineering / project management team and a heavy haul division with multiple SPMT units. And yes, there are still many sleepless nights!
How many Liebherr cranes do you have in your fleet?
Donna Stevenson: We own 25 Liebherr cranes from our LTC 1050-3.1 up to our LTM 1500-8.1.
What types of crane work do you and your team take on?
Donna Stevenson: Steel mills, petrochemical, transmission, utilities, infrastructure and the “daily rentals” such as HVAC, transformers, setting bar joist, steel, etc. We try to keep our market varied. With the addition of our rigging and heavy haul services, a licensed engineering staff, and SPMT’s, we have become a “turn key” contractor.
How many people do you employ in your company?
Donna Stevenson: We have 66 working in the office, sales and the workshop and 22 in the warehouse. We also have 140 unionised employees who are members of the “International Union of Operating Engineers and International Association of Riggers, Machinery Movers & Machinery Erectors”.
And what proportion of women do you have in your company?
Donna Stevenson: We currently have 46 staff in our administration department and 23 of them are women. Our women hold management position such as Lead Dispatcher & Field Coordinator, Director of Accounting, Director of Rigging Operations, Human Resources Officer, Director of Finance, Office Manager – one at each location-, Corporate Director of Parts & Service, Purchasing Manager ... and of course I am the President. We also have eight female crane operators on our workforce.
Are women superior to their male colleagues in some respects?
Donna Stevenson: Definitely. I have found that women have a good eye for detail. They notice fine elements that would otherwise be overlooked. Women also seem to have an infinite skillset for leadership, efficiency and compassion. Perhaps our upbringing to nurture, be organized and be caregivers is exactly what makes women great business people.
What challenges have you and your female colleague been faced with in a crane industry dominated by men?
Donna Stevenson: When I started my company 31 years ago, it was the first crane company to be fully woman owned and operated. Whilst we were not accepted by everybody at the start, people around us soon got used to having women on site.
How were you able to change these attitudes?
Donna Stevenson: We invest a great deal in training. Our workforce are all well trained and receive good induction training as well, including crane work, rigging and heavy haulage. That enabled us to establish a good reputation.
Do women benefit from men wanting to be “gentlemen”?
Donna Stevenson: I don’t see that. Our colleagues on site are real professionals who know their job and long ago threw off the old stereotypes of building workers. They are courteous and respectful – as long as the people they are dealing with are also competent.
Entertaining and amicable – a perfect description of our chat with Donna Stevenson in Illinois. We also appreciate women in engineering, quality assurance, sales and administration. And the best thing about it – they are increasing all the time.
This article was published in the UpLoad magazine 01 | 2020.