March 30, 2023
Jennifer Pinck, Boston ABC, MBA, MCPPO, is a living legend in the construction industry. She was one of the first women to enter the field, working in the building trades in the late 1970s and as a field engineer and construction superintendent on commercial projects and historic renovations in the early to mid-80s. She earned an MBA from Simmons Graduate School of Management in 1986, the same year she received an ABC Boston Building License – becoming the first woman in Massachusetts to do so. Though the industry was hostile toward women, Jennifer was determined and refused to be intimidated. She became one of the few women in management positions for the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority’s Boston Harbor Project – a $4 billion court-ordered sewage treatment plant, and the Big Dig – one of the country’s most complex and heavily scrutinized public works projects.
In 1998 she founded Pinck & Co., Inc. – a real estate development and project management services firm providing nonprofits, institutional clients, and public entities with planning, design coordination, construction management, and comprehensive development consulting services. Pinck ensured that the firm helped women to build a career in the industry, with two-thirds of the staff being women when she owned the company. The firm has managed over 6 billion in construction and has won numerous awards — including being named one of the fastest-growing private companies by Inc. Magazine, earning a place on the Inc. 5000 list for 2016 and 2017. Pinck & Co. is also a multi-year recipient of the Inner City 100 Award, which for the past 25 years has recognized the 100 fastest-growing businesses in under-resourced communities. In August 2018, Jennifer sold the company to a national firm, Anser Advisory, and now serves as a Strategic Business and Client Service Advisor.
Jennifer is actively engaged in community and civic affairs. She served as Vice Chair of the City of Cambridge Zoning Board, Loan Committee Member of BlueHub Capital, Board Member of the Associated General Contractor of Massachusetts, and Vice Chair of the Boston Center for the Arts – which she currently serves as its Board Chair. Jennifer is also an alum of ICIC’s Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) program and now serves as an ICIC Board Member. She also helped inspire and inform the creation of ICIC’s Building for Growth program, designed to help Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)- and woman-owned construction firms build capacity and develop sustainable growth strategies. The program is preparing to start its second cohort in April of 2023 and accepting applications and nominations for its third cohort, which will begin July 26.
We spoke with Jennifer about her trailblazing career, her impact on women, and the women who have inspired her journey.
ICIC: How are you using your legacy to continue advancing equity for women in the construction industry?
Jennifer: I continue to provide advice and guidance to women advancing in their careers. I also use my network to connect women to each other, as these connections are critical to building both one’s career and business.
ICIC: When considering leveling the construction field, we must acknowledge that equality is not enough. In your view, what other ways that the construction industry could advance equity?
Jennifer: Compared to my early years, the progress is amazing. There are now, finally, many more women at all levels and positions in the industry. That is critical to advancing equity as women-led projects and companies stake out a path for others. There are definitely still challenges, and one that endures is that women are still chiefly responsible for child and family care. The early start in this industry, as well as the distances one often must travel, means that taking care of the family and going to work can be a serious obstacle. Support for daycare and accommodating family life issues are still impediments that I believe discourage women from considering this field. In addition, the playing field is by no means level, and deep income and wealth disparities mean that for women and BIPOC entrepreneurs, it’s significantly harder to start and grow a business in this industry. Various programs (both public and private) have attempted to address this issue with limited success. At its core, this entire industry is very risk-averse, and this impacts every financial aspect of all participants. Solving some of the impediments that create barriers to entry and to growth is key.
ICIC: Looking back over your career, what are some lessons learned that are propelling you into the future?
Jennifer: Good question but hard to answer. Some days I look back on my career and wonder how I survived. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Or take arms against a sea of troubles…” resonates loudly when I recall the deeply ingrained personal hostility I faced as well as the predisposition to favor majority-owned firms over others, like mine. Considering my future, I am grateful I no longer need to engage in the struggle to build and survive as a business owner and use that freedom to pick and choose when and how to participate and be aligned with people and organizations whose values I care about.
ICIC: You started as a commercial painter, and now, amongst many things, practice painting art full-time. How does the arc of your story reflect how you’ve evolved in the industry, and how can your story help others (not just women) evolve their careers?
Jennifer: Recognize what you bring to the table; be attuned to what you like to do; don’t be afraid to make mistakes; don’t be afraid to ask questions; persist in learning; build relationships and allies; take chances.
ICIC: Finally, who are the women, in the construction industry or outside of it, that have inspired and motivated you in your career?
Jennifer: I’ll answer that by defining the attributes of women that inspired and motivated me. Women who are strong. Brave. Are excellent communicators. Are daring. Always sympathetic to others. With a sense of humor. Generous. Creative. Women with deeply held values that are not compromised.
The impacts of the women who inspired Jennifer are evident in both her interactions with others and her career achievements. Those who have worked with Jennifer describe her as “an effective communicator with a consensus-driven management style“. One can only imagine the strength, bravery, creativity, generosity, and sense of humor it took to achieve the numerous successes that marked her career. We are grateful for her long history of paving the way to include people from diverse communities, including women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+, in the construction industry.
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