Hilltoppers and hard hats: Profile on Sarah Murphy Ford (’10)
The stereotypes for the typical construction worker include men in hard hats who operate heavy equipment or direct traffic. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that just 9 percent of U.S. construction jobs are held by women. However, professionals like Sarah Murphy Ford (’10) demonstrate that women are successfully donning their own hard hats in the construction world.
Ford serves as Vice President of Hartz Contracting, a division of Scott, Murphy & Daniel, LLC. She is also a mother of two and a legacy of both the construction industry and a family of Hilltoppers. Her entire family are no strangers to WKU, including her father, Mike (’76); mother, Mickeye (’76); sister, Nancye Murphy Carter (’01); brother, Cole Murphy (’13) and even her sister-in-law, Caitlin Gover Murphy (’13).
Ford grew up in the construction industry, as her father has been in the business for more than 40 years and is the President/CEO of The Murphy Construction Group. In addition, her mother is the owner of Mick-Murf Construction and is about to celebrate her company’s 30th anniversary.
“I was probably in middle school before I realized that their employees weren’t actually blood relatives because they felt just like family since we spent so much time in and around their businesses,” Ford said.
Ford’s father encouraged her to help him with work when she was interviewing for jobs after college. She saw the work he had put into their family business, and that’s when she knew she wanted to help grow it more.
In 2012, Frank and Ben Hartz retired from Hartz Construction and asked Ford’s family business to interview their employees. They kept most of the employees and started operating the division as Hartz Contracting, a division of Scott, Murphy & Daniel.
“We have been growing ever since,” she said.
While at WKU for the MBA program, Ford said the faculty and her classmates made the experience worthwhile. She credits Dr. Bob Hatfield and Dr. Paula Potter for their encouragement and inspiration to take her skills to new heights. The one-year graduate program kept her classmates together six to seven days a week, and Ford said everyone brought something different to the table.
“I look back over my books and notes from Dr. Potter’s class when I am trying to make tough management decisions, especially when interacting with employees,” she said. “Each year that goes by, I realize more and more the importance of relationships and what great connections WKU gave me and continues to give me as an alum.”
Ford’s toughest challenge is finding the perfect work-life balance. She sees how fast time moves for her 3-year-old daughter, Sutton, and 2-year-old son, Wynn. A skilled multitasker, she gives work her all during working hours and her children her full attention until they are fast asleep. Her coworkers expect her emails after 9 or 10 p.m. when she is finishing up the day and preparing for the next.
“I don’t see many challenges that the men in our industry don’t experience too,” Ford said. “I have 200+ coworkers, all of whom seem like family, that go to bat with me every single day. They are the reason I can confidently do my job in this industry and not have to worry about being a minority.”
And when surprises come up, it’s not unusual for the kids to tag along to the office.
“The only way I get things done is with the help of my coworkers who will have them on a piece of equipment or taking a walk out on the lot for an adventure,” Ford said. “I truly could not do everything I do without my husband, family and my tribe at Hartz/Scott Murphy & Daniel/Scott & Murphy.”