Pamela Nitta first stepped foot on a Habitat build site in 2002.
At the time, she was working for Dick Pacific Construction Co. as an estimator, her first “real” job after college. When the company signed to up sponsor a Habitat build day, she jumped at the opportunity to volunteer.
Still new to the building industry and working in the office, Pamela didn’t have any personal safety equipment at the time.
“A few weekends before the build, I went shopping for steel-toed boots. Unable to find any women’s shoes in my size, I ended up purchasing a pair of boys’ size 5 boots from the children’s section of Payless Shoes at Pearlridge. They were quite snug around the toe, but I figured I would make do.”
On the day of the build, Pamela arrived in Waimanalo excited to volunteer, despite her ill-fitting footwear.
“That day was my first time wearing a hard hat. Back then, they were ‘one size fits most’ and made with interior bands that adjusted by inserting pins into holes – like a baseball cap. I couldn’t get mine to fit correctly but was too embarrassed to ask for help, so I wore it loose atop my head.
So, there I was: wearing boys’ boots that didn’t quite fit, struggling with my roller brush and fighting with my hard hat that slipped every time I moved. Even worse, I couldn’t bring myself to use the only porta-potty on site, so I refused to drink much water and skipped lunch altogether. I was so uncomfortable that day and, as I recall, not very productive.”
Forging the way for women in construction
Much has changed for Pamela since then. Today, she leads the Special Projects Division at Nordic PCL Construction and oversees a team of 20+ members providing construction services for clients in various market sectors. In 2021, under Pamela’s leadership, they secured the largest construction contract in the division’s history.
Despite all the ways women like Pamela are breaking barriers and making changes in the building industry, it remains a male-dominated field. In 2020, women constituted just 10.9% of the construction industry workforce.
“I enjoy the challenge of working in a male-dominated field, but there are times when I do struggle. Over the years I learned the importance of speaking up, taking action, and doing whatever I can to improve a difficult situation. More significantly, I realized the importance of helping other women do the same.”
Last year Pamela accepted a nomination to serve as Chairperson for Honolulu Habitat’s Wahine Build, an initiative to educate and empower women to participate in the construction of new, affordable homes on Oahu. Through her involvement with Wahine Build, Pamela seeks to inspire, uplift, and encourage women who are curious about joining the construction industry.
In April, Pamela was named the 2022 Honoree at the inaugural Hard Hats & High Heels in recognition of her invaluable contributions to perpetuate the mission of Honolulu Habitat.
“That day twenty years ago I was too embarrassed and hesitated to ask anyone how to properly adjust my hard hat. When I struggled, no one offered to help. Wahine Build is about creating a welcoming, empowering environment where women can feel comfortable asking for help. More than that, it’s about uplifting one another, learning together and building strong communities.”