According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up just 10.3% of the construction industry workforce. MGAC is proud to report that 34% of our workforce is female. That is more than three times the industry standard.
MGAC has built entire teams under the direction of female leadership. We have broken ground on projects almost entirely staffed by women. These individuals and their incredible management, guidance, and tireless efforts have greatly contributed to making MGAC everything it is today. We are grateful to be surrounded by such talented women, who each and every day, continue to push the envelope to make the greatest impacts possible in the communities we serve.
During this Women in Construction Week, we extend our gratitude to each of our female employees. Below, meet a handful of these women who choose to be a part of our family and hear what they have to say about being a woman in construction today.
Vindhya Juvaa is an Assistant Project Manager at MGAC in DC who has witnessed firsthand a shift in culture regarding women in the industry. Juvaa says she is glad to see more female superintendents on the ground and to see safety equipment designed with women in mind. That said, she knows there are many misconceptions floating around about women in the industry—particularly when it comes to the job site. “There’s a misconception that women aren’t welcome and don’t like to be at the job site. I totally disagree and have always loved being at the job site. It’s where you see how a project is doing and where you can literally watch a building grow from start to finish.” During this Women In Construction Week, Juvaa hopes to give a special shout out to her first Project Manager, Melanie Felix. Her advice to women in the industry? Never give up.
Liz Haeck is a Project Manager based in MGAC’s Seattle office who is often accustomed to being the only woman at the table. Haeck says that rather than feeling out of place, she reminds herself how important it is to bring her perspective to these meetings—especially considering she is usually the one leading the conversation! When asked about what misconceptions she runs into related to being a woman in the industry, she told us, “When I describe what I do to people outside of the industry, they are always surprised to learn that I sport a hard hat and safety vest on a regular basis, as if I’m ‘too feminine’ to belong in that type of uniform. There is this misconception that women have to fit a certain stereotype of being ‘tough’ in order to be in construction, when in fact, there is such a wide range of personality types and backgrounds, roles and experience levels, that all make up the industry!” Haeck believes that women can better support other women in the industry by thinking like a team working towards a common goal, while taking every opportunity to lift each other up.
Brandey McDonald is a DC-based Project Manager for MGAC. When considering what will lead to the continued success of women in the industry, McDonald always returns to mentorship. In her own career, McDonald had one mentor who made a big impact on her life. “Dawn Marcus, former Director of Communications at Hines, helped me get to where I am today. As both a fellow former President of the African American Real Estate Professionals and a cheerleader, Dawn made sure I was placed in front of the right individuals, which helped me continue to grow my brand. I am so very thankful for her!” McDonald wants other women in construction to know that it can take time to build your confidence in the field because it is not always easy to be underrepresented. She reassuringly adds that with time, she came to realize that the things that made her different were actually her greatest and most valuable assets. We could not agree more.
Yanet Martinez works in MGAC’s Los Angeles office as an Assistant Project Manager. She is proud to work in the construction industry because it means playing a pivotal role in the transformation of cities. Despite construction being a predominantly male industry, she believes it is highly important for women to have a seat at the table. After all, they will make up at least half of the population who will one day utilize the spaces being built. Martinez, like Haeck, believes that the biggest misconception about being a woman in construction is that they do not like to be on site, or perhaps are not interested in the industry at all. As someone who came up in design, Martinez observed that men were always the ones being tasked with on-site construction administration responsibilities. She believes this was not intentional, but rather a subconscious decision based on old gender-based stereotypes. To continue progressing in the industry, Martinez would encourage businesses to continue hiring women and appointing women to leadership roles. When reflecting on her professional growth, Martinez acknowledges Marinel Santos-Robinson as someone who helped her realize her potential at her former workplace and helped determine a road map to reach her goals. She also adds, “I have to say that I’ve also been fortunate to have male mentors who believed in my abilities and helped guide my career. They’ve been just as important to my growth and success as the many women who have helped along the way.”
Finally, Gabriella Parra is a Project Manager in MGAC’s DC office. Parra is proud to work alongside many female colleagues at MGAC and echoed their sentiments about industry stereotypes. “The biggest misconception about being a woman in construction is that oftentimes, people on the job site don’t think you know how things are constructed. Though women rarely provide manual labor on job sites, they can easily draw from our management experience to provide solutions for any construction issues that arise.” When discussing what can be done to help lift up other women in the industry, Parra also stressed the importance of mentorship and suggests that women should take the opportunity to expose themselves to a variety of projects. She believes that each job site and every project presents a unique learning opportunity. When asked about a woman who helped her get to where she is today, she gave a shout out to MGAC’s own Kristina Leighty, one of our Senior Vice Presidents. “I was lucky enough to meet Kristina Leighty, a great project manager who became my mentor when I first transitioned to project management from engineering. Kristina had me shadow her at meetings, site visits, etc. so I could see how the process worked and how she handled all situations on a project. I was able to become the project manager I am today thanks to her guidance and advice. We continue to work together and bounce ideas off of each other with great ease and comfort.”
So, this Women In Construction Week, we would like to thank these women for sharing their insight and hope to collectively do a better job of supporting the women in our industry. Let’s welcome them to job sites with open arms, foster opportunities for mentorship, and challenge outdated stereotypes. If there is a woman who helped you arrive where you landed, now is a great time to let them know.