Women in Construction Week 2021 Profile: Jeanine Zwart
City of Madison Engineering shared one profile a day as it celebrated National Women in Construction Week, March 7-13, 2021.
MADISON, WI – When you walk into a room, a building or a home, feeling warm and welcome can come from something as simple as a comfortable chair, a piece of art, certain feel of a fabric or even a color on a wall. That feeling of welcome comes from careful planning, precise selection and, if in City buildings, someone with decades of experience, like Facilities Management Construction Manager Jeanine Zwart.
“It makes the space more enjoyable,” Zwart said. “It makes it easier to work there, or for the public to enjoy it. It’s like your house, it has to be comfortable.”
Zwart focuses her work on interiors of City buildings, a part of the construction process that includes working with consultants and architects to select furniture, wall colors, floors and more in the construction building or remodeling process. Zwart was hired at the City of Madison in 1990, however her journey in the construction industry started well before.
“My first job was designing kitchens and bathroom here in Madison,” Zwart said. “We were referred to as the ‘girls in the showroom.’”
That mentality has changed for the better throughout Zwart’s career and life. Born in Chicago, grew up in Monona, Wis., she eventually went on to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and earned a Bachelors of Science in Environment, Textiles and Design with an interior design major.
“I can remember one of my very first jobs at the City, and we were working at the fire administration building. The contractor refused to talk to me. He would only talk to my male boss,” Zwart said. “My boss kept saying, ‘you need to call her, she’s the project manager. She’s the one who’s doing this.’ Probably six months later in to the project, finally at the end, he talked to me.”
Zwart said it was frustrating and experiences like that are still happening today in some fashion, but the amount of women in the industry continues to climb.
“There are so many more women in the field,” Zwart said. "You see women architects that you’re working with, women engineers, other project managers, plumbers, electricians, you see them every where, it’s nice.”
Zwart loves what she does, which includes everything from selecting paint colors, floorings, fabrics and furniture for different City Buildings, to ordering furniture and supervising the installation.
“You get to the point of the project, where you’re looking at 3-4 different paint colors and 3-4 different floorings, and it all just kind of comes together, and it’s teamwork,” Zwart said.
Zwart started as a drafting technician at the City, and has worked on some impressive remodels and new construction projects of many City buildings such as: Central Library, Pinney Library, Nakoosa Fleet Services Building, Olbrich Learning Center, Police Stations, Fire Stations, Community Centers and Park Shelters. One major project she’s proud to have had a major hand in: the remodel of the Madison Municipal Building.
“I never thought we’d see the remodeling of the Municipal Building, a $30 million project. Historic renovation,” Zwart said. “I worked in this building for 17 years. I was in the basement. The building is now beautiful.”
Beautifully preserved, improved in so many ways, just like the industry as a whole: a more welcoming atmosphere for women, something Zwart is thankful she can bring to any project she has a hand in.
“I think we all benefit from a more diverse workforce,” Zwart said. “It reflects real life, and I think that’s important.”
Diversity and inclusion: both ideals you can’t see or hold, but something you feel, just like when you’re in a room designed especially to make you feel welcome.
City of Madison Engineering shared one profile a day to celebrate National Women in Construction Week, March 8-13, 2021.
- Hannah Mohelnitzky, Public Information Officer, City of Madison Engineering Division, 608-669-3560, firstname.lastname@example.org