Women in Construction Isn’t Just a Week, it’s a Movement

At Swinerton, Women in Construction transcends the first week of March. This movement aligns with our culture centered on collaboration and diversity. We nevertheless recognize this growing annual campaign as an opportunity for us to revisit the dialogue on what it means for a woman to be making strides in a traditionally male-dominated industry. It’s also an opportunity for us to highlight a few more faces in our 4,000+ and growing group of employee-owners. Perhaps more importantly, it’s another means to educate women and youth on the possibilities available to them in construction.

You’ve heard the statistics before, because the numbers haven’t changed much in the last few years: women make up just 10% of the construction workforce. There is only one woman for every 100 employees on the field on the front lines of a jobsite. As construction continues to grow, one solution to the labor shortage is committing our time to outreach in communities and our dollars to programs that train women to enter the construction workforce.

There are trade-related organizations and pre-apprenticeship training programs across the nation that help support women who are considering the construction industry as a career. Swinerton looks to hire from many of these organizations such as:

“Our imperative is to educate women and young girls on the possibilities available to them in the construction industry who otherwise would not know. Whether they work for Swinerton or another contractor, the entire industry wins when we diversify our talent,” said Rachael Guerrero, Swinerton Corporate Social Responsibility Manager and secretary for The Swinerton Foundation.

One of the strongest ways we can encourage women to join the construction industry is by showcasing the voices of our women in craft and giving them the opportunity to mentor future generations through their stories.

Meet some of Swinerton’s craft women who are changing the face of the industry!

Kea Ahuna, SOLV Solar Technician Lead

Q: What do you like best about being in the renewable energy industry?

A: The feeling of giving power to the people, and seeing the beautiful panels beaming in the sunlight.

Q: What accomplishments in your renewable energy career are you most proud of?

A: I am most proud of the fact that I was able to start from the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) side as a pile driving operator and then advance to the lead foreman position, building solar fields on multiple jobsites throughout the U.S. Now I am currently working with the SOLV O&M team to keep the solar sites operating and maintained on a daily basis.  Client satisfaction is important so I am also proud of continuously keeping our clients happy.

Q:  What advice do you have for young women entering the renewable energy industry?

A: My advice to all you women out there is any job that a man can do, a woman can do just as good if not better. Girls, just know that anything is possible, it’s what you make of it and the sun is the limit!

Q: What are some of the highlights of your work?

A:  Building relationships outside of the organization, whether it be with clients, designers, subcontractors, etc. It’s so rewarding to deliver successful projects together and have fun doing it. Life is about making an impact in all the areas you are passionate about.

Q: Have you been a mentor or been mentored at any point in your career?

A:  In my career I have mentored both men and women along the way. I have seen and watched them grow successfully in this industry. My team continuously educates me on a daily basis. I’m proud to accept advice that I am able to apply to my job.

Hannah Fraser, NU Journeyman 1 – Drywall Finisher

Q: What do you like best about being in the construction industry?

A: The sky is the limit, if you are determined! I went from knowing absolutely nothing about drywall or construction, and now I am developing that knowledge to build my own dream house.

Q: What advise to you have for young women entering the industry?

A: Construction is hard, but so is life. Stay determined, because with hard work you can do whatever you set your mind to. I’m currently a drywall finisher, but my career goal is to retire as a crane operator. I know I can do it because I am determined.

Q:  Have you been a mentor or been mentored at any point in your career?

A: I have been both. My mentor taught me many things that has put me on the right path to accomplish my goals. It’s the little things that make the best product, and I want to be proud of every little detail that I touch. My apprentice is hungry to learn more. I see his potential, so I take the time to teach him things that will make him even better at what he does and accomplish his goals sooner.

Esperanza Gongora, Foreman – Drywall Finisher

Q: What do you like best about being in the construction industry?

A: I like to work on a team. Women in construction put our heads together and take on challenges. As a woman, I am grateful that I have survived in the field for 22 years, knowing from the start that it would be a challenge. We are now seen as equals to men who, for so many years, ran the field.

Q: What accomplishments in your construction career are you most proud of?

A: I am proud to set the example for many other women out there that you can work in the construction industry and that you can become a leader. Construction is hard work. You start as a laborer, but by working harder and demonstrating your leadership skills, you can become a foreman and a respected leader of teams in the field.

Q: What advice do you have for young women entering the industry?

A: Never be afraid of anyone or anything because we are all equal in this industry.

You will need to have thick skin. There will be challenging times, and you need to maintain composure.

And when you go home at the end of the day, leave your work stress behind. A happy family is waiting for you at home, and everything has a solution. Take it day by day. Always try to do your best and be open-minded,  speak up, and listen.

Q: Have you been a mentor or been mentored at any point in your career?

A: I have been a mentor throughout my career. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach other women how to work and be strong, and show them that the work can be done by being on time, taking responsibility, and moving forward; not being afraid to take the challenge. Most of the women I have mentored are now foremen on their own projects.

Women in Construction Week 2020

Rocio Montano Jimenez, Drywall Carpenter Apprentice

Q: What do you like best about being in the construction industry?

A: You can see the progression and transformation of a project before your eyes – from literally nothing to something special. I also like the challenges that come with the job and seeing how I overcome them.

Q: What accomplishments in your construction career are you most proud of?

A: What I’m most proud of is my progress. I have a lot more knowledge and a new skillset in my field than when I first joined the company. I am also proud knowing that I can use my brain to do the same job as the guys even though they might be stronger than I am, and that’s a good feeling.

Q: What advice do you have for young women entering the industry?

A: I would advise them to not be afraid or intimated by the construction industry. Before I joined Swinerton, I really didn’t know what one does in construction. I thought it was just a job for men and there isn’t a lot of work for women in the field. But that all changed since I started here. I love my job. I really don’t see myself doing anything else that’s not related to construction. Ultimately, I want to finish the program and become a foreman in the field.

Q: Have you been a mentor or been mentored at any point in your career?

A: The people that I work with day-to-day are my mentors, like the journeymen that I’m paired up with. They’ve helped me out a lot from my first project to my current jobsite. They are very patient and don’t hesitate to teach me or help me, even when I ask a lot of questions.

Julie Luu, Drywall Carpenter Apprentice 

Q: What do you like best about being in the construction industry?

A: It challenges me physically and mentally every day. I love working with my hands and watching my skills develop as I continue to learn how to build. The field has truly taught me valuable lessons that I apply to my personal life as well.

Q: What accomplishments in your construction career are you most proud of?

A: I hope that my journey in the construction industry will be a force that motivate others to step up to be their best self and to experience and accomplish more than they’ve imagined for themselves.

Q: What advice do you have for young women entering the industry?

A: Have grit, determination, and a strong focus because the field could truly make or break you. This is a great career option for women who are passionate about creating and building things with their hands – like an artist. I love to create, so to me it doesn’t feel any different than what I’m used to, it’s in my heart.

Q: Have you been a mentor or been mentored at any point in your career?

A: I was running the stocker/scrapper for cleanup and managing material, so in that sense I had to take phone calls and have conversations with leadmen and foreman every day. I got the chance to learn from them and experience firsthand how they lead and manage people. I have to lead by example and motivate my team rather than just being a “boss.”

You have to inspire them and help them find their purpose as well. For me, that is mentorship.

As far as woman to woman mentorship, I learn a lot from Bonny Shim. She was one of the first women to join the jobsite and really inspired me.

Angelina Moreno,  Carpenter Apprentice

Q: How did you get started in the construction industry?

A: My dad works for Swinerton and encouraged me to get into the industry. One day I decided to join the Laborers Union, and I loved it!

Q: What do you like best about being in the construction industry?

A:  I like the fast pace. I also like that I know what I’m going to be doing every day, see the work get done, and experience the project being built first hand.

Q: What accomplishments in your construction career are you most proud of?

A: I’ve only been in the trades for two years, so going from the Laborers to the Carpenters Union has been my greatest accomplishment so far. I’m currently taking classes through the Carpenters Union apprenticeship program to become a journeyman carpenter. Typically it’s a five-year program, and I currently have four years to go.

Q: What advice do you have for young women entering the industry?

A: Go for it and hang in there. It’s rough and intimidating at first, but eventually you get used to it. You learn how to be assertive – especially being around so many men.

I also recently encouraged my mom to get into the industry. The first few days were difficult for her, and I told her to hang in there. By the end of the week, she loved it!

Q: Have you been a mentor or been mentored at any point in your career?

A: I get a lot of help my dad, from my foreman, and journeyman.

Yannet Rojas, Journeyman Labor 

Q: How did you get started in the construction industry?

A: Around 20 years ago, I saw other ladies in the industry and thought, if they can do it, perhaps I can too. The work also looked interesting.

Q: What do you like best about being in the construction industry?

A: The cultural diversity. Every person whom I’ve had the opportunity to work with has taught me new ways of getting the job done safely and effectively. I think I learn something new every day. I come to work with an open mind and go home not only with new ideas, but experiences and perspectives that allow me to grow as a laborer each day at Swinerton.

Q: What accomplishments in your construction career are you most proud of?

A: I’ve been working in construction for about 20 years, and I think that is a big accomplishment for me. I’m proud to be part of the 10.3% of women working in the construction industry.

Q: What advice do you have for young women entering the industry?

A: Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion and keep an open mind with every task. Every person has a skill and the more you ask questions, the more knowledgeable you will become. I would tell young women entering the industry that their ideas are valid and to believe that they too can get the job done!

Q: Have you been a mentor or been mentored at any point in your career?

A:  I have been a mentor and a mentee. In every construction company or site that I’ve had the opportunity to work for, I always leave with a new set of skills!  The City Build Academy and Mission Hiring Hall Inc. are some of the organizations that I support because they are actively helping to bring women into the construction field. I also support the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) because they continue to empower women like myself, who work hard in construction, to be leaders and thrive within in this industry.

Erin Seals, Labor Foreman 

Q: How did you get started in the construction industry?

A: I began my career in the construction industry almost four years ago after my husband encouraged me to give it a shot.  I was ready to get back into the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom for a number of years. While it was an idea I first laughed at, once I did in fact give it a chance there was no looking back!

Q: What do you like best about being in the construction industry?

A: The first thing that really drew me in was the fact that I was able to be outside during most of my work day. The second was getting a front row seat to “behind the scenes” aspects of constructing buildings.

Q: What accomplishments in your construction career are you most proud of?

A: I started at the 333 Dexter site working for a subcontractor, which is where I received my first confirmation that I was in the right place in my career. The client was not only thrilled with the work my team had been doing, but with me specifically in leading manpower. This recognition ultimately lead to the Swinerton team hiring me on as a foreman.

Q: What advice do you have for young women entering the industry?

A:  Keep an open mind, even if it’s not something you thought you could ever do it doesn’t mean you can’t.

Bonny Shim, Drywall Carpenter Apprentice

Q: What do you like best about being in the construction industry?

A: Being able to work with tools and build. I like building things, I like seeing things being made. In the construction industry, you can actually see progress in real time and be proud of what you contributed.

Q: What accomplishments in your construction career are you most proud of?

A: In the past six months, I started out as a stocker/scrapper to pre-apprenticeship first aid. I’m most proud of my progress and just continuously learning.

Q: What advice do you have for young women entering the industry?

A: It’s a great job if construction is what you are interested in – you can really build a long-lasting career out of it. So, don’t be shy or be intimidated with the industry.

Q: Have you been a mentor or been mentored at any point in your career?

A: Since starting my job six months ago, there have been a lot of people on my jobsite that help shaped my skills. So, it’s not just one person – I have a large team of coworkers that I can count on.