Being a woman in the male-dominated construction industry could be challenging for some. But for Cheryl McKissack Daniel, who is the president and CEO of McKissack & McKissack, the oldest Black-owned and female-run construction company in the US, it always feels like home.
Based in New York City, McKissack & McKissack is known for several major projects including the revamping of Long Island’s railroad hub, which runs below the Brooklyn Net’s home. They are also the firm behind the new construction taking place at LaGuardia Airport and the new Terminal One at JFK.
The company’s history
In 1905, McKissack Daniel’s grandfather Moses McKissack, a former slave, founded the family business after learning the trade of making bricks. Since then, they built different buildings, homes, hospitals, including the Tuskegee Air Force Base where Black pilots trained to desegregate World War II.
Her father, William DeBerry McKissack, took over the business in 1968 and that was when she started knowing about how the business goes.
“We would go to work with him every Saturday starting at ten years old, walking construction sites, tracing documents, you know, learning about building systems early in life. It was all ingrained in us,” McKissack Daniel told CBS News.
From one generation to another
After her father suffered from a stroke in 1982, her mother, Leatrice B. McKissack, stepped in and managed to grow the business even more despite having no training in architecture. Some of the remarkable projects under her helm is the $50 million complex at Howard University and a building at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
In 2000, McKissack Daniel, a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree holder in Civil Engineering from Howard University, took over the business. With her leadership, their construction and design firm has been making a mark on some of the major landmarks in the nation.
Affirmative action really works
McKissack Daniel credits the company’s success, even in New York where it is now headquartered, to affirmative action. She said, “People do business with people who look like them. All the work that we’ve done outside of New York, it didn’t matter in New York.”
She said she always makes it a point to prioritize hiring minorities for her company. 61% of her employees are minorities and 34% are women. She also developed a job training workforce program to those who they couldn’t hire anymore.
Moreover, McKissack Daniel hopes that her story would be able to inspire other women of color “that the construction industry can build wealth” and that it can look like them.
For more information about McKissack & McKissack Construction Firm, visit www.mckissack.com