The traditionally male-dominated world of construction has seen a trend toward the hiring of more women in the trenches managing construction projects. Vanir Construction Management is a woman, and minority-owned firm out of Sacramento, California. Since its inception in 1980, Vanir has given women the opportunities to begin and expand their careers in construction.
At the helm of this growing business since her father’s passing in 2004, Dorene Dominguez has made it a point to promote women in construction within her company. In addition, she heads the Dominguez Dream, Vanir’s non-profit organization. This association provides technology tools and school supplies to underserved children in grades K-4 in school districts in California and Arizona. She believes in combining early childhood education in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) with state-of-the-art technology. By connecting with school children in this way, and in particular, young girls, Vanir offers an awareness into the possibilities in construction-related fields.
In Vanir’s Arizona office, women lead many of the projects. One of our largest projects, led by Project Director Rebecca Pyrz, is more than 80% managed by women. In 2016, Maricopa Integrated Health System (aka Valleywise Health) hired Vanir Construction Management to manage their $935 million, 7-year expansion program. Under the leadership of Arizona Area Manager and VP, Jennifer Frost, the project team was built by hiring the most qualified people for the job. Each came from unique backgrounds with their own perspectives on construction. Here’s what they have to say about being a woman in construction.
Jennifer Frost, VP and Area Manager
What advice would you give to the next generation of women in construction?
“Women bring a much-needed fresh perspective to the art of construction management. Our voices are needed to help our built environment to evolve. Women often tend to undervalue their contributions. My advice for women in the industry is to focus on your personal strengths, and your skills will develop. And, always look for a good mentor who can help in navigating the discomfort that comes with growth.”
Shannon Lobdell, Project Manager
Valleywise Health provides healthcare to thousands of underserved residents of Maricopa County. How does that factor into the way in which you, as a woman, approach this project?
“I have been in the industry for around 15 years, and I find it empowering to be surrounded by so many strong, capable, knowledgeable women on my project. I am especially excited about this current project due to the community in which we are serving and the residents that will benefit from these new facilities for years to come. My approach is definitely one of compassion and strength to make sure I help create an amazing healthcare facility and environment for the people of Maricopa County. I also hope to set an example and continue on the path of great things for women in this industry.
Andrea Yanes, Project Manager
You are new to Vanir. Can you offer any differences you see in a woman-owned company?
“The biggest difference I’ve experienced working for a woman-owned company is there is more frequent and effective communication. I also have a stronger sense of value as a professional/employee.”
Jaelyn Rogers, Project Manager
With so many women working on the same project, are there any advantages or challenges to this work environment?
“You might think there would be challenges, but I have only seen advantages. I am new to the team and already, I feel a great sense of camaraderie with these women. While each of us seems to hold a different set of skills and strengths, this adds so much value and versatility to our team. Having the ability to use each other as sounding boards, to work through complex issues, and to share ‘lessons learned’ is a great advantage. I am very excited to be a part of this incredible team.”
Alexandria Baldwin, Assistant Project Manager
The field labor staff is close to 100% male. How does that impact your approach to getting the work done?
“I’ve spent my entire career in male-dominated industries. I believe that has led me to adopt a much more straight forward and blunt approach to how I deal with any situation.”
Laura Reyburn, Project Coordinator
Do you feel there is room for advancement for women in the industry?
“In a nutshell? Yes, absolutely – I think not just room for advancement, but entire houses of advancement exist for women in construction. I have worked in administrative roles at C-suite level in a wide variety of firms, and the glass ceiling for me seemed more related to industry education and lateral training rather than my gender. It never occurred to me when I joined Vanir’s project with Maricopa Integrated Health System that working in healthcare construction would be any different. Thankfully, I find it no different here. Vanir has provided avenues and support for training of all types, and leaders encourage it regularly. My current role has expanded at least twice in two years from executive assistant to project coordinator, and I have received lots of encouragement and guidance throughout. I look forward to watching Vanir continue to lead the way in advancing women’s roles in construction.”
Loida Gonzalez, Project Coordinator
Where do you see yourself as a woman in the industry in 10 years?
“Starting off new to the construction industry on the size and scope of the Valleywise Health project, has offered new opportunities. Our team is a supportive team that provides a culture of learning, mentoring, and collaboration. I’m excited to see where this path leads me into the future.”
Diane Trotter, Project Coordinator
Have there been any uncomfortable moments being in an industry dominated by men?
“I’ve experienced walking into all male run meetings and having to establish my knowledge and experience or purpose for attending. I have been very fortunate throughout my career to have worked with skilled, respectable professional men in the construction industry. I’m excited to see so many women working in the construction industry today.”
Marcelle Nihei, Project Coordinator
Where do you see yourself as a woman in the industry in five years?
“Within the near future I see my current profession similarly mirroring my past career and creating great working relationships with my focus, reliability, strong work ethic and proficient achievements, becoming an integral and reliable part of the team as a whole and a long-term contributing asset for the company.”
Written by y Gigi Moran, Certified Business Developer, Vanir Construction Management