Purple Construction is an article series based on interviews that I have conducted with women within the construction industry to unveil the realities of being a woman in a male-dominated industry. The women featured have been there, done that and are now sharing their stories and advice to the public and to the next generation of women entering the field. These women have revealed the challenges, emotions and lessons learned from being a minority and offer the courage and strength to the next generation.
My intention is that this series will inspire more women to enter the construction industry as well as open the door to making construction more a more diverse industry, including women, minorities, and the disadvantaged. Meet The Women Below!
Thank you to all of the women that participated and are paving the way for an equal journey for the next generation!
Amanda Grindle – Muir Contracting
Be assertive! It’s not possible to be successful if you don’t speak up, sit at the table, and engage! Leaders in the construction industry, who are mostly men, expect women not to be these things and thus won’t take you seriously until you do.
Muir Contracting, Inc.’s owner and president, Amanda Grindle, has more than twelve years experience in the construction industry. Before forming her own business, she worked for over ten years in both construction and engineering during which she developed an extensive knowledge and expertise for a diverse range of construction activities. Over the course of her career, she has established relationships with numerous jurisdictions and regulatory agencies, ensuring fast and flawless coordination of permitting issues. Together with her project experience, Amanda has earned a reputation as being highly responsive, stringently compliant, and completely committed to the client’s needs and goals.
Articles Amanda is Featured in:
Amie Riggs Swarts – Riggs Construction & Design
If you don’t know the answer, have the confidence to admit it and let your client know you have a team of professionals that do and you will get them the answer they are looking for.
– Amie Riggs Swarts
Since Amie has been with Riggs, she has been successful in many roles within the company including: pioneering the selections coordinator and cabinetry design positions, which she created by observing the needs of our clients. In 2002, Amie moved in to a remodeling sales position, and then in 2004, accepted the positions as Vice President and sales manager. In addition to her responsibilities as sales manager, Amie is also our marketing director. After graduating from Kirkwood High School, Amie attended St. Louis Community College and has earned her Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) and Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) designations. Amie is currently the Chair for the Home Builders Association Remodelers Council Steering Committee and holding her third 3-year elected position as Advisory Commission Member for the Special Business District (SBD) of Downtown Kirkwood. She is also currently working as a volunteer on the SBD Facade Improvement and Street Banner Programs.
Outside of work, Amie loves to be outdoors. She and her Husband, Jim, take their son Kelly, 3-1/2, and daughter Natalie, 15 months, hiking every chance they get. When not hiking, you can find them at their family lake house in Ste. Genevieve, MO.
Articles Amie is Featured in:
Cathy Summers-Korsmo Construction
“Take the time to learn from the people you work with in the field. There are some wonderful men and women in all of the trades that can teach you so much about the industry if you let them.”
Cathy has been working in construction for the past 25 years. She has worked her way through the industry from office manager to senior project manager, managing projects that range from small retail tenant improvements to $30M medical office buildings.
Cathy currently works with Korsmo Construction as a project manager. Her emphasis has been on medical office buildings and her portfolio includes everything from small family practices to ambulatory surgery centers.
She has also worked on projects of all different sizes, construction types and uses ranging from banks to carbon fiber plants data centers to children’s museums.
Articles Cathy is Featured In:
Daria L. Van Liew, PE, DBIA – US Army Corps of Engineers
Expect some discrimination and having to prove yourself. With that being said, don’t tolerate people who are unprofessional. Strive for excellence and set the standard (a high one at that). Always do the right thing no matter what, your integrity is not negotiable. If you are not having fun and love what you are doing, you are in the wrong profession. Construction is a tough environment and the goods have to outweigh the bad. Find balance in your professional and home life, you can’t be perfect at everything!
-Daria Van Liew
Daria L. Van Liew has over 20 years of experience with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District and is currently the Deputy Chief, Construction Division.
In this position she is responsible for providing senior management oversight for the Construction Division Branches and Bay Area Office construction staffs as the District executes a $1 billion construction program. She serves as the Account Executive for the Ft. George G. Meade Installation and serves on the SAME Baltimore Post Board of Directors. Prior to her current position, she served as the Administrative Contracting Officer and Area Engineer for the Bay Area Office leading a staff to execute assigned military and civil works mission. Areas of Responsibility included Ft. Meade, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Adelphi Army Research Laboratory, Washington Aqueduct, and surrounding municipalities for civil works mission. Previous assignments include Resident Engineer for Ft. Meade Resident Office, civil works Project Manager for Programs and Project Management Division, and Project Engineer for Bay Area Office. She is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Maryland, a certified Design-Build Professional, and a civil engineering graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park.
She is happily married to her husband Todd and they have two sons, Riley and Dylan.
Articles Daria is Featured In:
Deborah Van Huis – Expertise On Demand
Blog | LinkedIn
“Be confident in yourself and your own abilities. Don’t let fear hold you back from tackling new responsibilities or from achieving your goals. You can do it! Learn to be your own biggest cheerleader. This is really important because, more than likely, there won’t be a lot of other women working with you so you won’t have a built-in support system. You’re going to have to be able to feel good about your accomplishments and work through issues by yourself.”– Deborah Van Huis
With a rare combination of construction expertise and superior teaching and leadership development skills, Deborah Van Huis is Owner and President of Expertise On Demand. Her company is a licensed Class A, General Engineering Contractor, within the State of California.
Deborah has over twenty-five years of experience in large scale onsite construction management, business management, and land planning. Deborah formerly served as the West Coast Regional Land Manager for Centex Homes, Director of Forward Planning for KB Home and Vice President of Forward Planning for one of the nation’s largest land developers.
Today, Deborah serves her clients by developing recommendations to improve construction management operations and optimize project performance and provides feasibility and due diligence services to support her client’s land acquisition decisions through the firm she founded, Expertise On Demand. She also teaches construction management courses at the University of California Riverside Extension and business management courses for University of Phoenix.
Deborah holds a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois Chicago and an MS in Administration with a concentration in leadership studies from Central Michigan University.
Articles Deborah is Featured In:
Eleanor Encinas – Army Corps of Engineers
“Be yourself! It’s okay to be a lady in construction, yet still be competent, dedicated, committed, efficient & effective, and strong. I am proud to say that, in my construction Resident Office, I supervise a total of 28 people, in which 7 are women.”
Eleanor was born in Long Beach, CA, and raised in Los Angeles, CA with her parents, two sisters and brother. She graduated Woodrow Wilson High School in June 1986. After graduation, her father suggested that, since she was good at math and sciences, to consider engineering as her college major.
She attended East Los Angeles College from 1986 thru 1989, as a Civil Engineer major, then transferred to Cal Poly Pomona. She worked part-time in college as a CADD draftsperson in a small engineering firm. In June 1992, she graduated with honors, with BS in Civil Engineering. After graduation, she joined the US Army Corps of Engineers, in the Engineer & Scientist Intern Rotational Program for 18 months, rotating thru Planning, Design, Geotechnical, Hydrology & Hydraulics, and two different construction field offices.
After completing her internship, she was offered a permanent position in Construction Contract Administration Branch. Her primary responsibility was to negotiate construction change orders and claims. After two years, she accepted a promotion to Construction Management. After another two years, she accepted a transfer to Environmental Construction Branch, as a Project Engineer. She was responsible for the day-to-day administration of various HTRW-type remediation projects, including EPA Superfund projects and various UST removal projects. In 2000, she accepted a promotion to Resident Engineer, where she spent three years in Military Construction.
In 2003, she transferred to Southern California at Prado Dam, CA in Civil Works. In 2006, she transferred to another Resident Office, where she is currently assigned.
Articles Eleanor is Featured in:
Erin VerHoeven – Cornstone Contractors LLC
“Stay nimble and listen to your instincts. This new economy requires you to stay on your toes and be able to respond to a market condition rapidly. Be conservative regarding your expectations and listen to your instincts: if a project feels like it has too much risk, don’t take it on because you feel like you need the volume. Listen when your gut tells you to pass on a project; there will be others to come and there is likely a very good reason to pass on it.” –Erin VerHoeven
Erin VerHoeven was raised in the commercial contracting industry and while she did not intend to own a General Contracting business, she found that her skills fit well in such an environment. She graduated from Whitworth College in 1998 with a BA in Communications and minors in Sociology and Marketing. Her business partner and her worked together at another company before starting Corstone in 2002. They found that their combined skill sets made for a powerful partnership. She resides in Snohomish on a small hobby farm with her husband and two sons. She enjoys road trips in our RV and sports.
Over the years, she has worn a wide variety of hats as an entrepreneur, including HR Manager, Bookkeeper, Marketer / Business Developer, Legal Consultant, and Executive Director.
Articles Erin is Featured in:
Iris Harrell – Harrell Remodeling
Start your own company. Don’t throw yourself against a wall and expect it to fall down. -Iris Harrell
Raised in the south, Iris once worked in the tobacco fields as a child. Iris obtained both Bachelor’s and Masters Degrees and began her career as a teacher. It was her life partner, Ann Benson, who introduced her to her true talent and passion when she presented Iris with an electric drill to hang pots and pans in their home. Iris proceeded to take every course available in home design and construction, earning her general contractor’s license. Unable to find employment in the field because of her gender and age (34 at the time), Iris started her own company, producing small jobs for neighbors, relatives and friends.
After relocating to Menlo Park and determined to succeed in an industry “owned” by men, Iris became an entrepreneur in 1985. Her values and ethics have translated into a highly respected, award-winning design + build remodeling company. She continues to teach and has spoken to groups such as NAHB, NAWBO, and NARI to name a few. Iris has received numerous personal awards, including Mountain View Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Athena Award and Silicon Valley Business Journal Woman of Distinction, to name just two.
For 25 years Iris has exceeded the expectations of her 700+ plus clients and employee owners and is considered one of the best executives and remodelers in Silicon Valley.
Articles Iris is Featured in:
Karen Say – Saybr Contractors
“Follow your passion. I believe women have to work twice as hard as men to build credibility and trust. Grow thick skin and a good sense of humor (it pays dividends in your personal life too). The great news is that what starts as an obstacle (being a woman) ends up being a marketing advantage if you stick with it. I don’t look like the normal construction “guy”, so I stand out at industry networking/marketing events and am easily remembered. There are numerous challenges to being in a non-traditional role, but when you overcome the obstacles…the victories are twice as sweet!”
Karen Say is the president and owner of Saybr Contractors, Inc., which she founded in 1997 as an environmental construction company specializing in commercial and industrial fueling systems.
Karen’s background in the industry began at age 19 when she was hired as a receptionist at Omega Environmental. Over the course of the next nine years, she moved into several administrative positions, transitioned to Estimating/Project Management, followed by the Operations Manager role and, finally, to the Branch Manager for Omega’s Seattle Office.
When Omega closed its doors 14 years ago, Karen utilized the experience that she had gathered there to begin Saybr Contractors, along with three of her former coworkers. Since its inception, Saybr has diversified its business and grown from a small, four-person company to a $25-million, 40-employee general construction contracting firm. Saybr’s relationship driven customer service model has cultivated a client base that includes federal, state, county and municipal agencies as well as many Fortune 500 private sector businesses.
Saybr Contractors has received numerous awards regionally and nationally, including several Associated Builders and Contractor’s Excellence in Construction Awards. Additionally, Karen Say has personally received the Regional Small Business Person of the Year, Washington State Small Business Person of the Year and the National 8(a) Graduate of the Year Awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration in addition to numerous other regional commendations.
Articles Karen is Featured In:
Linda Minde – TriLite Builders
Use your skill sets to your advantage. To gain respect, you have to earn respect. Be helpful. Find ways to help other owners grow their businesses. Pass on quality leads. Be a resource.-Linda Minde
Linda Minde is the co-owner of Tri-Lite Builders, a thriving 29-year old design/build remodeling firm based in Chandler, Arizona. Tri-Lite Builders has become one of the most successful remodeling firms in the Phoenix-Metro area as a result of its quest for excellence and its impeccable reputation for outstanding customer satisfaction and delivering quality projects to each and every client.
As one of the most successful females in the highly male-dominated remodeling industry, Linda’s work with Tri-Lite Builders, began as an office managerial capacity, quickly grew to encompass spearheading the company’s sales and marketing efforts.
Linda has also been instrumental in Tri-Lite Builders being named as recipient of numerous community and industry awards. Recent awards include NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) 2010 Contractor of the Year Award for Bathroom Remodel over $60,000 & 2009 Contractor of the Year Award for addition over $250,000, Guild Quality’s 2011 Guildmaster with Distinction Award (for the 4th year in a row), BBB Finalist, and NAWBO Unsung Hero award. Linda was also named a 2009 Athena Finalist.
Linda is very active in her church and community. For several summers she and her husband traveled to Ecuador where they worked on the construction of a school in a very small, impoverished village. Tri-Lite Builders also sponsored a Habitat for Humanity home in Chandler in honor of their 25th Anniversary in business.
Linda and Wayne Minde have been married for 29 years and have 4 children & and 8 grandchildren.
Articles Linda is Featured In:
Marilynn Moch – Phoenix Builders LLC
“I recommend that women who are interested in starting a company or interested in working with partners: first, have partner(s) and discuss your views, vision, and goals before entering into the partnership. There is simply too much work to do it all alone. Second, I advise hands-on work in the trade of your business for at least one of the partners. Tradespeople often do not know how to run a business, but schools today are churning out Project Managers and MBAs who have no trade experience. Both are a mistake. Thirdly, check out the many trade/networking organizations. Join carefully and slowly! Your selected organizations will require a significant amount of your time if you are realize value from them, and you will have precious little time or money to spare. Unlike many other businesses, construction success is heavily dependent on networking and relationships.” -Marilynn Moch
Marilynn Moch began work as a social worker with New York City. She quickly focused on the workers and that the quality of work that the workers do depends very much on how they are trained as well as how they are treated.
She went back to school, to obtain a PhD in Organizational Sociology while working full time and raising a daughter as a single parent. She moved into management with the NYC Department of Sanitation Motor Vehicle Repair Division, managing a program where committees of labor and management worked together (with some head-knocking here) to run the twenty-four repair shops in the department. She was responsible for maintaining the Profit Center reporting system–this was the best job she ever had! After spending a year in the former Yugoslavia studying the worker self-managed workplaces in that country, she was promoted to the Administrative Division of the Department of Human Services where she helped coordinate building the first homeless shelters in NYC, among other assignments. Returning to her hometown of Seattle in 1999 when her only grandchild, Colin Diego, was born, she was his nanny for 4 years, and then founded Phoenix Builders LLC.
Moch graduated from the Turner School of Construction Management and the ABC School of Construction Management and construction has been the focus of her life since then.
Rozanne Garman – RHD Enterprises
“Don’t bluff, don’t pretend to know something you don’t. Ask questions and always follow through on what you say you’re going to do. If for some reason you are unable to follow through, make contact to let them know and apologize. Due diligence goes a long way…know your projects. Go to the jobsites…dressed appropriately to spend time with your supers and get to know the subcontractors onsite. Develope great relationships with your subs because people like to know you care. Also, most owners don’t set foot on site and your customers like to see you–owner involvement goes a long way.”-Rozanne Garman
Rozanne Garman has worked in the construction industry for the past 17 years. She began her career as a receptionist for a local fire sprinkler contractor after high school and successfully navigated her way through the industry receiving promotions and career opportunities. After creating amazing results for other companies, Rozanne founded RHD Enterprises, Inc., a successful 8(a), and HUBZone certified general contracting firm that specializes in federal government construction. After spending the last year committed to her personal growth and development through experiential seminars, training and coaching, Rozanne committed to her dream of giving back by bringing this work to her community. She is also passionate about supporting local and global charities for women and children. Married to the love of her life for the past six years, they are raising their dynamic 4-year old son and just welcomed a daughter in October.
Articles Rozanne is Featured In:
Sandra Olson-Meyer – Construction Industry Training Council of Washington
“If you are going to start your own business, make sure you have some business training and get a mentor. Be aware of the obstacles ahead. It’s hard work especially that first year. Know the challenges ahead so you can succeed. Construction is a tough industry for both men and women.” Sandra Olson-Meyer
Sandra Olson-Meyer has the distinction of being the first woman to be inducted into the Construction Hall of Fame. Olson-Meyer served for 23 years as executive director, and later president/CEO, of the Construction Industry Training Council of Washington (CITC). She also participated in national craft training committees of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America, and the National Center for Construction Education and Research.
She and her late husband, Mike Olson started their own construction firm called MDO Group. Olson-Meyer was responsible for taking in bids and other office work while occasionally visiting job sites. They operated MDO until 1991, when she began to look for another challenge. She felt she needed to make a change and needed to do something different.
Olson-Meyer can trace her link to CITC back to 1986, where she was asked to hold down the office for a week. Over the years she made some recommendations to a few CITC board members on how to more efficiently run the nonprofit. The board later let the CITC head go and asked Olson-Meyer to stay on while it searched for a replacement. The board never conducted that search; it hired her instead.
She was its first woman member of the CITC board when she got on in 2006. Through her persistence, the CITC became the first organization in the country in which multiple competing associations came together to create a craft training program. Olson-Meyer is most proud of the percentage of students that have graduated from CITC and their ensuing success.
She has also served on the local Rotary board and has worked on committees focusing on workforce issues, such as the Seattle Construction Advisory Council, Pierce County Construction Partnership Council and the Port of Seattle.
Shana Peschek – Construction Center of Excellence
“Find a mentor and stick with the industry.”
Shana Peschek, M.B.A. has been the Director of the Washington State Construction Center of Excellence, Renton Technical College since 2010. Shana’s experience is varied, she began her career in government, working for the Department of Social and Health Services from 1992 to 1999. She started her own business painting murals, faux finishes and signs for both residential and commercial clientele. She went on to work as a speech therapy assistant for the Rochester School District and in 2008 took the position of Administrative Assistant for the Construction Center of Excellence. When not working she enjoys hiking, backpacking and mountain biking with her husband and sons.
Tami St. Paul – Operating Engineers Regional Training Program
”If you like to work outdoors and take satisfaction in building things, enjoy the idea that – at least in a union trades worker construction position – you will be paid the same as anyone else doing a comparable job, go for it. Don’t get entangled, as much as possible, in petty job site politics or personal relationships with your co-workers (don’t sleep where you eat) as that can be awkward at best. Show up every day, on time and ready to work with the goal of doing a great days work building something useful or beautiful for your community.
Men have a different form of conflict resolution than women generally so if someone yells at you for doing something wrong, don’t take it personally, don’t internalize it and hold on to it. Men generally will let you know if they have a beef and then… they are over it – which I love! It ends there and they move on, no pouting or over analyzing, just correct the problem and move forward.
Don’t expect praise and compliments, it’s not, generally, how men work. Your pay check is your thank you. If you continue to receive one, it means that you are doing a good job. Also, have a backup for everything. The one thing our industry doesn’t tolerate is absence. Everyone is human and understands and empathizes that life sometimes gets in the way of work, but really in our industry you have to be there contributing every day to the goal of finishing the project. Your co-workers can’t cover for you for long and will resent being asked to very often. Find a way to have a backup plan to help you meet your home obligations, transportation, anything you can think of.”
–Tami St. Paul
After High School, Tami went to Washington State University looking for a way to make a good living (preferably working outdoors). Being unable to find anything that met her requirements, she left after 2 years, to make a new plan.
In 1986, she completed the ANEW (pre-apprenticeship program) and was accepted into an apprenticeship with the Operating Engineers where she learned to operate construction equipment. She completed her apprenticeship and worked as a journey level heavy equipment operator running earth moving equipment, cranes and doing site control work.
In 1999 her local was looking for a new dispatcher and she decided it was time to give back to the system that had provided her to have such a rewarding career. She applied and was hired as the dispatcher at IUOE local 302. When a position in training opened up, Tami was then hired as a training coordinator in June of 2000.
Tami is now one of the people in charge of the Apprenticeship and part of her job is to recruit, select, educate and mentor our future work force.
Two of the things she is proudest of are the work they’ve done to enhance retention in the program through educating apprentices about financial planning, unemployment and L&I systems, and appropriate work place behaviors and attitudes; and the work we did to help bring apprenticeship utilization to Washington State. This has been very rewarding work and I enjoy being able to help people improve their quality of life through apprenticeship.
Tammy Stempel – Adapt Engineering Inc.
Website | Facebook
“Be strong and don’t back down. Definitely don’t use the fact you are a woman as a crutch or excuse, that will only prove the stereotype that women don’t belong in construction. Approach your business interactions with grace and knowledge. Don’t let their preconceived opinions get under your skin…prove them wrong!”
Tammy Stempel was recently a licensed general contractor, specializing in; stucco, plaster, drywall, framing and manufactured stone and greenwall applications. Her background is in environmental studies, construction/project management and interior architecture/design.
She has always been passionate about improving sustainability in the built environment, and working at Adapt has given her the ability to apply her past experience and education in this direction.
Stempel brings 18 years of project management experience in construction and renovations to the Adapt team. She is also currently on the Gladstone Planning Commission, acting as a sustainability adviser, and consult for other local jurisdictions on sustainability issues.