Women in Construction Week: Lynn Stith Bennett
Lynn Stith Bennett began her career at Coakley & Williams Construction in 1987. With the fastest female career progression in the company’s 60 year history, she was promoted to Executive Vice President in 2018. In her role, Lynn oversees three Corporate Divisions: Risk Management, Corporate Operations, and the Executive Committee. Fulfilling a leadership role that previously did not exist at the firm, Lynn champions the company's culture to foster innovation and collaboration, providing opportunities for all employees. Under Lynn’s leadership, the number of women employed at CWC more than doubled, increasing to 25% (well above the 10% industry average). Recent female placements include Human Resources Generalist, Business Development Manager, Director of Marketing & Communications, Project Managers, Project Engineers and several more.
She is a known industry leader throughout Greater Washington. Her current leadership roles include President of Commercial Real Estate Women Washington DC (CREW DC) and Vice Chair Associated Builders and Contractors Metro Washington (ABC Metro).
CREW DC held an intimate gathering at The Army and Navy Club in Washington, DC providing their members the opportunity to get to know their new President, Lynn Stith Bennett. Moderated by Jenna Kirkpatrick Howard of Lockton Companies, Lynn answered questions regarding her career highlights and the future of CREW DC. Attendees learned a little more of the personal side of Lynn during the rapid-fire questions. One piece of advice for a younger person in their career?
“Build your network early. Find those people that will support you and help you develop and grow.
That's one reason I'm really excited about leading CREW DC. It has been instrumental in my growth and I want that to continue for others.”
- Lynn Stith Bennett
JKH: You recently celebrated 31 years at Coakley & Williams Construction. Why have you stayed so long?
LSB: Initially it was my passion for building things. I like seeing what you're doing come to fruition and being able to see that built product when it’s done. I also love the development of the teams. I never had to leave to get the next growth opportunity.
I started as a project manager running interiors projects then one day my boss called and said, "You're going to build COMP USA in Gaithersburg." Back then, you could build a building for a million dollars. [crowd laughs] It was my first job out of the ground and it was just over a million dollars. I was a little intimidated, but I took the challenge. I worked with a great superintendent who helped me to grow in the role.
After that, I was running base building projects. The next step was leading our design-build division. I went from managing projects to managing people and processes, in addition to working collaboratively with architects and engineers.
Later on in my career, I transitioned out of operations and in to my current role over the last 5 years. The answer is, I was able to create the opportunities internally. I didn't need to go anywhere else.
JKH: What's your favorite part of your current role?
LSB: My favorite part is that I am making an impact. I'm making things better for everyone within the organization. We are focused on our culture, who we are and where we are going.
I love bringing strong people to the organization and letting them do what they do really well. I am so fortunate to work with so many amazing people. That is the best part of what I do now.
JKH: What's the most challenging part of your current role?
LSB: Sometimes I get excited about a new initiative and forget that everyone isn't quite with me yet. I need to better communicate the vision. That can be a personal challenge I have to remember – slow down and make sure the message gets across to everyone.
JKH: Who have been the mentors in your career?
LSB: As a young woman in the industry and in the field, I didn't have a formal mentor or sponsor. Over the last 30 years, Pat Caulfield and Terry Coakley have always given me opportunities to do great things. When I raise my hand and say I want to do it, they are there to support me.
I have learned the most from the superintendents that stopped long enough to teach me. That's what happened in my first field position at McCormick Construction and that’s how I really got my education understanding and love for construction. It was a superintendent who took the time. That has continued at Coakley & Williams Construction. The supers I have worked with over the years have always had my back. They were the ones that gave me credibility in the field and have been amazingly supportive as well as great mentors.
JKH: One piece of advice for a younger person in their career?
LSB: Build your network early. Find those people that will support you and help you develop and grow. That's one reason I'm really excited about leading CREW DC. It has been instrumental in my growth and I want that to continue for others.