Women lead with integrity at the jobsite and in the office.
Today, women are proving they have what it takes to stand at the construction jobsite and lead large teams and projects, while also identifying ways technology can help deliver projects on time and on budget. However, the construction workforce is still lacking when it comes to women on the jobsite.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov, Washington, D.C., second quarter update of weekly earnings of wage and salary workers, looks at trends of workers by occupation. Of the more than 5.9 million workers in construction and extraction occupation, only 117,000 are women. Also, men in this area make $786 median weekly earnings, while women make $685.
However, this all might soon change, as a new sex rule was set to become effective on Aug. 15, 2016. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs set forth new requirements that contractors must meet under the provisions of Executive Order 11246 prohibiting sex discrimination in employment.
This deals primarily with gender-based barriers to equal employment and fair pay, including compensation discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environments, failure to provide workplace accommodations for pregnant workers, and gender identity and family caregiving discrimination, among others.
The good news is women who are working in the construction industry today are proving they are leaders who recognize the challenges on the jobsite and can come up with innovative ways to move a project forward. These women are proving they can be a catalyst for change, driving forward technology initiatives related to BIM (building information modeling), ERP (enterprise-resource planning), cloud, mobile, and so much more. These women are not only leading the charge for technology in construction, but they are doing it with integrity, tenacity, and passion.
Together, both men and women can work together to come up with new ways to leverage technology on the jobsite. The construction industry is one that is driven by partnerships—between owner, architect, engineer, and contractor. It is only when all the project participants work together that a truly unique and innovative project can be delivered.
When this project team is made up of different genders, races, and ethnicities, more perspective can be brought to the project—ultimately creating a team of workers that can drive a project forward.
In order to bring awareness to this trend, last year, Constructech magazine announced the inaugural Women in Construction. Those 38 women are working in the industry—and doing it in a way that proves women can have a presence and don’t have to sacrifice femininity in order to be successful in business.
Since that time, the construction industry has seen a surge of women rising up the ranks. This year, Constructech readers nominated more than 100 women for consideration. Combine this with the ongoing research Constructech editors have been doing throughout the past year, and the number of qualified women for this list far exceed 38. Still, only 38 could be named.
The 38 women who made this year’s Women in Construction list are heading up some of the most impressive construction projects in the country. They are identifying how technology can help improve efficiencies in the jobsite and in the office. And they are all doing this with passion, drive, and dedication.
Collectively, these women don’t want to talk about gender bias. Many of them are even too humble to recognize they deserve to be on this list. However, they are all focused on finding the best way to construct better buildings and have a passion for helping other like-minded women in the construction industry. Help us honor the 2016 Constructech Women in Construction.
Construction Project Executive
Barbara Allen shows there is a technological solution for anything, but it’s her drive that makes things happen. As a construction project executive at Cordish Co., she oversees projects where she is able to reinvent how solutions are used. The first is the construction of a series of high-rise apartment buildings in Kansas City, and currently billed as the Two Light Tower project. Through this process, Allen is responsible for coordinating effective interface from managers to coordinators to prime contractors and back. And while out in the field, she has made every effort to implement the latest solutions to get the job done.
Vice President, Construction
Despite the fact Stacey Barton ensures things are done by book, she has also demonstrated the need to think outside-the-box is crucial in construction. During her 20 years with Haskell, Barton has overseen the company’s projects, policies, procedures, personnel, and field technology applications to ensure everything is in order and up-to-date. Her key to success has been her use of BIM and virtual construction platforms to improve project management and further develop programs for scheduling and estimating. It was her involvement on self-perform work technologies like robotic total stations that lead to more accuracy for field engineering, securing contracts on several successful high profile jobs.
Assistant Project Manager
Working on the road can sure take a toll on someone, but as Assistant Project Manager responsible for active Illinois Tollway highway projects, Barbara Bensinger is showing companies how to stay in the lane. At Curran Contracting, project management and accounting systems have been her biggest tools in helping her file daily reports, roadway closures, coordinated pay estimates, RFIs, and much more. Getting others on these integrated systems has been a main focus for her as well. When other team members are facing trouble or there is a glitch in the system, they all turn to Barbara, who took it a step further and made suggestions to the tech companies on how to improve their solutions to better assist contractors.
Director of Public Works
City of Kenosha Dept. of Public Works
When starting out at the city, Shelly Billingsley saw a blank canvas in terms of technology use. She vowed for new advancements in fleet management, storm water management, street signs, and much more. Furthermore, Billingsley set the trend for the rest of the city when she developed a GIS that allows key stakeholders to stay connected at the office or in the field. As a result, more mobile devices were implemented into city projects. Blazing new ground, her role has allowed her to seek out women for jobs as engineers and CAD technicians, as well as speak at the American Public Works Assn.
Deputy Director for Capital Programs and Environmental Affairs
Massachusetts Port Authority
One of the biggest keys for the success of Luciana Burdi has been her dedication to quality and value, not just in the work that she does for the Massachusetts Port Authority, but for its customers as well. In order to do this, she felt it was crucial new technologies build upon the solutions they had been using thus far. What struck Burdi as the right solution for her capital programs team was the innovations seen in building information modeling and design software. She continues to contribute to the growth of technology in the construction through participation on different construction and technology associations.
Plumbing Estimating Manager/Master Plumber
Certain areas of construction developments can become a complicated Web, but Alaina Cartagena has proven she can navigate through it all. Through her work as an estimating manager for J.M. Brennan, she has become the go-to person when it comes to plumbing. Whether it be designing the systems themselves or training employees, she is solely responsible for evaluating and implementing every aspect of the company’s estimating software systems that come her way. The use of these solutions has even helped her guide the company toward a paperless work environment. Her strides have additionally pushed the company towards hiring females for positions in the future.
Operations Administrative Manager
David Allen Co.
When it comes to connected solutions in the construction industry, Lakesha Coates is changing it brick by brick—or rather tile by tile. Throughout her 15 years at David Allen Co., which is a subcontractor specializing in marble and terrazzo flooring for airports, schools, and other projects, Coates has shown a knack for seeking out new avenues to increase efficiency and productivity, which prompted many workers to seek her knowledge. She was able to deploy a variety of software systems to assist in such tasks as project and payroll management, historical records maintenance, and change order tracking. Coates is also using her extensive expertise to shape the community around her with charitable work and functions that further promote women in construction.
Assistant Project Manager
Superior Air Handling
At the end of every work week, all production data, documents, and reports go to Priya Dhamale, where she quickly knows what is working and what is not. As an assistant product manager on many large-scale projects throughout California, she works very closely with others to organize plans for field personnel and upcoming site activities. With all of this influx of information, Dhamale uses building information modeling to track work progress throughout the day and has adopted platforms to consistently manage shop designs and drawings digitally. When projects are going as planned, she knows how to keep the momentum going, yet when she was faced with an important project that needed thousands of changes to the contract, Dhamale was able to get everything back on track.
Very few can navigate the 3D world as well as Monica Emmons. With great experience in resource allocation, mentoring, cost budget development, marketing, and recruiting, Emmons leverages building information modeling, which has come useful in projects such as the PSU Stott Center and OSU Cascades Academic Building. While working on these projects, Emmons has pushed the boundaries of virtual reality and animation to give a better realization of the final product to clients and improve CAFM (computer-aided facility management) capabilities. This work has allowed her to tackle innovative projects.
General Counsel/Executive Director
Nothing gets past Sabrina Gerold. On one hand she serve as Pinnacle CSG’s general counsel, orchestrating the company’s legal affairs and risk management systems. On the other hand, she’s constantly seeking out new business opportunities as executive director. With the use of new programs, Gerold remains updated on the ever-changing state laws regarding construction, and has used software programs to help close these deals safely and securely. To allow her to gracefully balance these roles, she has instilled the urge in her company to increase internal communication through cutting-edge technologies. After seeing the success her company had with revitalized systems, trade partners and outside companies began to mirror the sentiment.
Senior Project Manager
Shawmut Design and Construction
From healthcare facilities to new academic buildings in the Boston area, odds are Katie Gibbs has been a major part of it all. Gibbs remains at the forefront by managing BIM coordination processes, file sharing platforms, and many other information systems that help project management run smoother. Her work on the Moakley Addition to the Boston Medical Center saw her construct 3D documents with BIM tools by colocating subcontractors to collaborate on design documents, something that had yet to be done at her firm. The Moakley project was also significant for Gibbs, as the company saw her assemble a team that was almost entirely of women, including Gibbs as project manager, two assistant project managers, and one accountant.
Massachusetts owes a lot to Kristine Gorman, thanks to her incredible innovations on a variety of projects and her dedication to all aspects of the construction industry. Gorman seems to work as fast as the machines on the jobsite, as her current project portfolio includes a boat and bus terminal, a commuter rail station, and a project at a county jail in Boston. Gorman has also worked diligently to market several committees she is involved in that promote female leaders in transportation, construction management, and overcoming BIM technology. Her team is currently embarking on a two-year Project Controls initiative at Massport that aims to develop mobile dashboards that interface construction data and reports from anywhere.
Vice President of Operations
As vice president of operations at Skanska USA, Kim Grant is responsible for making sure projects out of her Los Angeles office are moving along smoothly and each one of her employees has the right training and tools they need to get the job done. She does this by constantly implementing new systems and encouraging workers to attend seminars and conferences to educate themselves on the latest technologies in the industry. Grant also focuses on establishing strong business relationships with the company by balancing good rapport with existing clients, while demonstrating a keen eye for spotting new opportunities. Her leadership skills have exuded within other areas in and out of the workplace, as she is head of the company’s Women in the Workplace initiative and participates in local organizations for women in construction.
Senior Project Manager
Overseeing so many different people in construction can seem like a difficult thing, but Nicole Heran covers so much ground effortlessly. In addition to managing more than 40 staff members on a daily basis, Heran is also in charge of nearly 300 workers on the construction of a science museum in Miami, Fla., but she’s not stopping there. Through the use of the company’s own mobile app, “Project Corners,” she is supplied with aerial photos and realtime data documenting construction progress as well as connecting with locals in the area to give updates on the status of production. This led her to push the use of the app, “inSite Monitor,” which measures various safety levels during construction around patients in healthcare facilities, along with advancements in 3D scanning to engineers and document sharing programs to workers.
Any project is a tremendous undertaking—and Mary Hill is there from the very beginning until the end. Hill has worked on cost estimation and development, land acquisition, operations management, and project close outs. Through all of those various roles, she has constantly sought out new technologies to increase accuracy and efficiency in her work. Her well-rounded experience has solidified her involvement in major projects that lie along the Atlanta skyline, one which is the 1180 Peachtree building. Currently, she is undertaking a 16 story office facility and entering stage two in development of one of the largest buildings in Oklahoma City.
Mosby Building Arts
As a member of Mosby Building Arts for more than a decade, Jill Huckelberry has shown the tenacity to take on any project whether it be bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and much more. She knows that it can be stressful for clients when conducting repairs on the home or remodeling an entire room. That is why she takes pride in the fact that her position as project manager should also entail her to go above and beyond for her clients. This includes bringing them along with her and her team through the use of the latest design software. From the design process to remodeling itself, she makes sure they are never left out of the loop.
As someone who has been with Barcom Construction, since the beginning, Elaine Hoffman has built new paths for women in the industry and shattered expectations. The 20-year vet transformed her company from a firm that went from handling smaller projects to major commercial multimillion dollar contracts—and she’s not stopping there. As a woman, she is constantly pushing the company towards new innovations and technology, with a goal to go completely paperless in the next five years. Her hands-on, collaborative approach has made her available to all kinds of projects including field reports and supplying supervisors with iPads and laptops so everyone knows what is going on at all times.
Managing Director CE&M Group
Greeley and Hansen
Teresa Irby-Butler has done her homework on technologies in the construction industry. Since having presented several papers and spoken at numerous conferences, Teresa has worked to bring electronic filing to field inspectors, where they can track contract items and construction progress each day through the use of their own tablet. She has integrated these solutions for major projects that she oversees throughout the country, which includes work in Cape Coral, Fla., as well as the ongoing MED598 Trunk Water Main project in New York. Her work has also given her an international perspective on construction, as she is responsible for overseeing the company’s firm based in Colombia, South America.
Most kids like playing sports or like to draw or paint, but from a young age, Ann-Marie Jennette, wanted to build. When approaching any new project, coworkers say the project manager is constantly asking herself, “Are we building smarter?” Over time this mantra has become a major part of the Suffolk Construction company culture and has allowed her to integrate many new software programs. On a 42-story residential building project in San Francisco, Jennette made use of up to eight BIM systems to manage 225 people in the field. The software enabled her to ensure projects were on schedule, diminish costs, and prevent any mistakes in design plans.
Sherri Johnson knows how to seal the deal in the construction industry and it’s all thanks to her skills in contracting and technology. As orders, plans, and contracts need attention on a daily basis, Sherri needed a way to organize it all to ensure deadlines are met and documents are approved. With the use of electronic signatures she created a more efficient way of handling contract and purchase orders that shrunk a six person job down to one. This huge reduction in manpower and time has allowed Sherri to help DBS Corp., grow exponentially through her business tactics, as well as implement new collaborative programs for workers and clients on the go.
Jane Kaplan Peck
Chief Operating Officer
Jane Kaplan Peck grew up in construction, but while her love of the industry stems from a personal place in the past, she has become fully immersed in technology for the future. Kaplan and her husband took over the reins of the company that her parents ran for 40 years, putting her as one of the top women in the business. Following the precedent set by her family, Kaplan is involved in all aspects of the company’s day-to-day operations where she is constantly looking for new solutions to ensure security and productivity. The decision to provide iPads to project managers and field superintendents increased collaboration and communication on projects. She has also implemented cloud-based systems to oversee everything from design drawings to financial statements.
Project and Development Services Market Lead
Julie Kilpatrick’s knowledge of how technology is changing the construction industry encompasses a large scale. Kilpatrick has moved her way through an eclectic mix of positions where she has transformed her skills and the department itself. Her position in global training saw her introduce the firm’s platform to more than 2,000 project managers, along with video seminars in 23 different countries. She has currently tested and customized applications to clients around the world that help companies share files more efficiently and approve reports from mobile devices. Lastly, her love of apps has led her to create punchlists for an upcoming hospitality project.
Senior Construction Engineer
Patience and planning have become integral to the work that Silvana Lara has done in the construction industry. While many companies will fast track projects or increase the speed at which things are done, Lara has advocated that taking a step back to reevaluate programs and procedures will benefit everyone in the long run, vocalizing that the key is advanced work packaging and work face planning solutions. While at Flour she has implemented the integrated scaffolding solution and improved project delivery companywide. She is changing the industry as a whole by helping shape the design of the heavily used SmartPlan Construction software. In time, her vision will become reality.
The Weitz Co.
For nearly 10 years with The Weitz Co., Yuliana Linares has worked her way up to oversee some of the biggest commercial projects that have come her way. As project manager, she is constantly on the go, heading up many different projects at a time. With so many projects all at once and in different stages of development or construction, she has integrated connected solutions into her work. Such solutions have assisted her with more effective value engineering, proposal submittals, cost management, contract negotiations, project bidding, and much more.
Senior Project Manager
Erland Construction, Inc.
Elizabeth Martin takes care of her own, whether it’s participating on her local building committee or stepping up to the plate as senior project manager, overseeing projects upwards of $35 million. Handling all of these tasks may seem like much, but Martin and a colleague took it upon themselves to customize the company’s project-management system to get the job done right. In addition, she has used BIM for MEP (mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) coordination, which allows designs to be reviewed and shared with subcontractors during work on the Newton Country Day School Wellness Center and the New England Center for Children. Her experience in the field has placed her at the lead of the quality and advising committee, providing insight on matters that may impact the firm.
Senior Construction Engineering Specialist
As someone who knows the industry from the ground up, Amanda McCarthy continues to reach higher. It was her formative years as a journeyman iron worker and hands-on experience assembling work face planning solutions that made her an essential asset to designing new solutions that provide craft workers with the tools they need to get the job done. In addition to also having a hand in the development of SmartPlan Construction Software, she is constantly working on newer ways to upgrade her work on Flour’s cost effective, self-performing scaffolding solution. Despite her involvement in so many high profile projects, McCarthy makes it a priority to participate in her company’s Growing Representation and Opportunity for Women organization.
Gita Murthy sets an example for women in the construction industry. Rather than working her way up from the bottom as a new hire, she reached the top by forging a path on her own when she started RORE Inc., more than 12 years ago. What began as a small company, quickly picked up speed and eventually saw the development across North America, all the way to Japan. To keep her company growing, Murthy knew innovations were needed, such as integrated GIS and CAD in-house capabilities and organizing panels to bring new solutions to improve customer service in small-and-large businesses. One of the biggest keys to her success is her love of education and giving back to help women achieve more in the industry.
Project Controls Manager
Kim Sieber is truly a wizard when it comes to software. During her time at Cianbro she has been responsible for the adoption of information exchange platforms scheduling software. Sieber maintains that everyone from seasoned workers to new hires are trained on new technology. She has also become the central hub of communication between engineers, project managers, and clients, increasing document control between all parties involved. With all of this knowledge and experience, she is involved in STEM and makes it her duty to speak at local colleges to young women about unsung opportunities in the construction industry.
Phillips & Jordan, Inc.
When Kayla Soden learns, she learns fast. After spending every second she could in and out of the office training herself on takeoffs and other important tasks, her hard work paid off exponentially when she progressed from estimating coordinator, to estimator, to project manager during the course of her time at Phillips & Jordan, Inc. As head of two subdivision infrastructure projects in Florida, she adopted field management systems to share report, pictures, schedules, equipment, and labor information with managers during the production period. Her keen eye for estimating also allowed her to spot forthcoming concerns with spending, which helped bring projects in on time and under budget.
Vice President of Technical Services
Pepper Construction Co.
Jennifer Suerth has been the go-to person to transform ideas to reality at Pepper Construction Co. With a background in architectural design and engineering, Suerth has made a name for herself in the construction industry after using her skills to oversee many large-scale projects. BIM (building information modeling) and virtual reality are some of the few areas where Suerth has collaborated with business owners to incorporate project data at the jobsites. In addition, she runs many BIM workshops and has been heavily involved in various construction and architectural committees throughout the Chicagoland area.
Collins Engineers Inc.
Amber Thomas is responsible for steering Collins Engineers Inc., into many high profile projects including a massive reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange in Wisconsin. Involving three major highways, 38 bridges, and 43 retaining walls, communication technology has proven to be the key to overseeing schedules, progress, and quality. She has done this in a variety of ways either through email or using new mobile platforms to complete daily reports and handle the influx of information that comes from a project of this scale. Through her time, she has also contributed to her local chapter of the National Assn., of Women in Construction.
Business Application Analyst
Morgan Traynor has presented herself as one of the most versatile employees at Ryan Companies. After entering the company almost five years ago, she has served as project manager, project assistant, field supervisor, and business analyst, where she has juggled close to 300 projects during her career. With that diverse experience onsite and in the office, she has been directly tasked with the selection and management of all technological solutions that enter the company’s suite, like field mobility software, business CRMs (customer-relationship management), and digital information access, to name a few. She has then shared her knowledge within the company’s training programs to ensure efficiency and retain feedback, resulting in a 7.9% increase in production for the company.
Turner Construction Co.
In one of her most recent undertakings, Diana Vanadia began as an onsite super for a graduate research lab and office building project, but by the end emerged as project manager and engineer. This stride was no easy feat either, considering the scope and scale. Yet her use of web portal technology allowed for tracking and processing of project documentation. The complex nature of the labs proved to be a challenge that she faced head on, as she used 3D and MEPFP coordination to design the unique ceilings, as well as creating laboratory spaces that adhered to strict temperature, humidity, energy, and heat load specifications. As Vanadia’s tenacity for construction and technology shined through her work, she also brought female colleagues on her team, elevating their work and careers to new heights.
Project Executive/Senior PM
When Martha Vega was taken on as a project executive/senior project manager at Winter Construction, she knew new innovations would be key. One of her most recent projects has been a major 26-story high rise in the middle of Midtown in Atlanta, Georgia. To prepare herself for such an immense undertaking, Vega found the value in using PlanGrid applications to access important planning documents, enhance communication between various offices and the jobsite, and allow for alterations to be made without any misunderstandings. Due to the success she saw with these solutions on that project, she realized the usefulness for foreman and project managers as well.
Layton Construction Co.,
Mary Veldkamp is an open book of information when it comes to new solutions in construction. Whether she’s overseeing healthcare construction projects in California or seeking out new opportunities to learn about technologies on her own, she aims to learn something every time. On one of her current projects, a major medical office building, her knowledge pushed her towards BIM (building information modeling) to allow her teams to access and manage drawings, specifications, submittals, and RFIs—all from one place on their mobile devices. Satisfaction with this program then led her to use BIM for pre-mobilization meetings, safety inspections, and scheduling. Through all of this, her suggestions have helped the company reduce costs and improve productivity.
It’s one thing to have an idea in the boardroom, but it is another to get the same results out on the jobsite. As described by those who know her, Robin Webb seamlessly blends her tech-savvy expertise with real world application. As project manager working on projects in the $30 million range, Webb pushes herself and her team to find the best possible solutions for their subcontractor partners in the field. Solutions such as virtual BIM estimating, clash coordination, project dashboards, safety and quality tracking, and much more have become essential in current work on a higher education office building and parking garage. When a solution is not working, Webb remains at the forefront of leading into the better option.
VDC Manager and BIM Catalyst
Boston’s own Cara Wilczynski has taken design in the construction industry to new heights. Working closely with architects, engineers, and owners, she has been instrumental in helping Commodore Builders bring fully functional 3D designs to life. BIM (building information modeling) technology has come in handy during the coordination process, while platforms aid her teams in the proposal process. Yet, it was her work with one tool that improved business opportunities and allowed her to develop a way to make the technology easy to use by superintendents who are more traditional in their business and working methods. Wilczynski’s achievements have even allowed her to give back to families through the “Canstruction” charity event held every year in Boston.
-by Laura Black, Editor and Peggy Smedley, Editorial Director, with additional reporting by Daniel Feigl, associate editor