Pearl Lawson, Construction Manager and Acupuncturist
|Pearl Lawson was the construction manager for Disneyland’
s Paradise Pier (now called Pixar
Pier) in Los Angeles.
coming from two large cities, Los Angeles and New York City, and being here in Madison. There’s growth. Everyone wants to be competitive. But in the midst of
being competitive, you have to make sure you don’t do something that will be detrimental later. I wanted to share that because the end result if you keep doing this,
you’re eventually going to have this situation. This happened in New York City as they kept growing, growing and growing.”
Instead of focusing on becoming a construction manager, which Lawson is open to if the right project comes around, he decided to help the African American and
other communities of color develop its construction infrastructure so that it could be a part of — and benefit from — Madison’s growth.
“I’m trying to set up a program to be able to help other minority small businesses and women-owned businesses that are trying to get into construction,” Lawson
said. “Most people start a small construction company because they are good at their trade. It doesn’t mean they are good at the project management side of it.
What I would like to do is set up a program to help them get an understanding of, ‘This is what you need to run your business. These are the different documents that
you need to have a stand-by understanding because if you work as a tradesman under a general contractor, they are going to ask for all of these different reports. A
lot of times, they don’t know the reports and it makes it a little frustrating for the general contractor to work with smaller contractors.”
Most importantly, Lawson wants to help create a community of minority-owned construction firms so that they are not “the only one” on construction sites and can
concentrate on the excellence of their product and service and not on the glare of others working on the project.
“I think I am the only African American woman in this county in this area and there are perhaps 10 in the whole state,” Lawson said. “I can go in and be a project
manager at a large construction firm. However, they’ll have me and because they have me, they’ll ‘own’ me. However, if I grab everyone possible to bring them up,
then it won’t be that, ‘Oh, I saw an African American woman.’ It will be more on the job site, ‘Oh, there are several African American companies working on this
large project.’ That’s where I can bring the numbers up as opposed to check the boxes. I want being African American and working in this area is the norm and not
the exception. I don’t want to be the unicorn.”
As an entrepreneurial soul, Lawson has learned to keep her options open. And so she has developed an interest in acupuncture into a future company she will own
“I’ve always been concerned with where the body goes, being in buildings,” Lawson observed. “And I did environmental design in undergrad. It’s always
consideration of how the body gets affected in that building. You consider the shape of the building and the materials that you use. My mind has gone further to go
inside of the body with Chinese medicine. It’s always been a mystery-solving medical field. With illnesses that Western doctors may find mystifying, but with
Chinese medicine, we take a totally different approach and get an understanding of the body is trying to tell us it needs something different besides
pharmaceuticals. With acupuncture and Oriental medicine and herbs, it gives a totally different approach. I went to the New York College of Traditional Chinese
Medicine and got my master’s in health and science of Oriental medicine and also went and studied at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.”
Once an architect, always an architect and so while in Shanghai, Lawson couldn’t help but learn from Chinese architecture.
“My Mandarin is interesting,” Lawson said with a laugh. “I started studying when I was at UCLA. I had hopes of going on the business side of architecture. At the
time, Japan was doing work with America. In my heart, China was next, so I started learning Mandarin there. Apparently it wasn’t for me to go into construction. It
was for me to go into acupuncture and Chinese medicine. It was quite interesting how just even being in Shanghai for six months, seeing the architecture there and
how they are building things different, it was a good experience. There is a little bit of a flair of Asian culture combined with modern architecture. Every building
would not stand out as a Western building. They still use bamboo poles for scaffolding. The strength of bamboo is beyond what we think of. It was sturdy enough that
they were able to use it. And according to them, it was ‘OSHA-certified.’”
Lawson recently joined the Wisconsin Society of Acupuncturists and is in the DAOM (Doctorate of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine) Class of 2020 at the Pacific
College of Oriental Medicine. Lawson is well on her way, no matter what path of business she chooses.
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
Pearl Lawson heard the creative calling when she was a little girl, growing up in Long Beach,
California and pursued it to UCLA’s master’s architecture program and construction management
jobs in Los Angeles and later in New Jersey and New York working on school renovation and
construction projects. And then a funny thing happened to Lawson on the way back to Los Angeles.
She ended up in Madison.
“Once I got here, I realized all of the different aspects of Madison that were growing,” Lawson said.
“I like the city. There was water, once again, so that worked for me. And I was able to go to the
Chamber of Commerce presentation last year. They gave all of the statistics of where Madison was,
the top 15 cities to live in in the U.S. Technology was growing here also. From that, it was like a win-
win. People were nice. My sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, were very active here, which was helpful for
me to know that I wouldn’t be isolated. And the city was moving forward and so I immediately
wanted to get involved. I went down to city hall, introduced myself and applied for the planning
board, just to be a part of it and do whatever I could do to help the city grow with all of my knowledge