By Luke Carothers

Today, across the United States, women make up only 10 percent of the construction workforce with 1.1 million workers.  In some metropolitan areas, such as Minneapolis, Seattle, and San Francisco that number is slightly higher–closer to 20 percent.  These percentages are certainly rising, however, as there was a 101 percent increase in women with the title of construction manager from 49,400 in 2015 to 99,400 in 2019.  

One firm making it their purpose to continue increasing these numbers is McCarthy Building Companies.  McCarthy, which is the oldest privately held national construction company in the United States, is being led in the Bay Area by a group of dynamic women leaders.  This group is not only playing a pivotal role in the company’s success, but they are also responsible for building up some of Silicon Valley’s most cutting-edge tech campuses, fostering new innovation every day.  McCarthy’s NorPac region is inspiring the playbook for excellence in the construction industry at large.

Challenging the industry’s status quo, McCarthy’s NorPac leadership team is more than a quarter women, an increase of 10 percent in recent years.  This industry leading team is composed of several staunch leaders such as Senior Vice President of Operations Ann Poppen.  With over 30 years of operational experience in the industry, Poppen is the primary point of contact across preconstruction and construction phases of client projects to ensure effective implementation of quality and safety programs, cost control, and project close-outs.  She is joined on the NorPac leadership team by Alice Nguyen who is the Vice President of Preconstruction Services.  In this role, Nguyen is responsible for the integration and implementation of McCarthy’s design-phase services.  Vast expertise and collaborative approaches have allowed Nguyen to consistently achieve positive project outcomes.  

Ann Poppen and Alice Nguyen are also joined by two other prominent leaders on the NorPac leadership team at McCarthy: Vice President of Integrated Design Deliver Stefanie Becker and Director of Business Development at the NorPac San Francisco office Nikki Marongiu.  Stefanie Becker has over 30 years of experience in design and construction; she is a DBIA-certified, award winning leader who specializes in large, intricate projects that are built over several years.  Becker is also adept in forging professional development, developing relationships and connecting the business community.  With over a decade with McCarthy under her belt, Nikki Marongiu has become the on-site team leader for many of the company’s large tech projects by managing architect and client relationships throughout the life cycle of a project; her collaborative spirit and operational experience have helped grow McCarthy’s business development efforts within the Bay Area.

One of the biggest reasons for McCarthy’s ability to change the current trends and feature a strong team of women in leadership in the NorPac region is the McCarthy Partnership for Women, which is an internal program that arms the women of McCarthy with invaluable skills and experience.  It is a national employee resource group that provides opportunities, support, and a network for McCarthy’s female employee-partners.  This program not only serves to develop female employees and improve their retention, but it also helps recruit new talent to the company.  This, in turn, broadens McCarthy’s diversity of perspective and offers female employees opportunities for personal and professional development, internal and external networking, and a platform for sharing goals and exploring solutions.

This philosophy comes to fruition through events such as the McCarthy Partnership for Women National Conference, which is an event that offers women employees of McCarthy an opportunity to network.  By Giving their employees access to the necessary materials, skills, exposure, and networking opportunities, this event is centered around helping women in the company rise through the ranks and feel valued amongst their male counterparts while also becoming decision makers and key stakeholders in their own careers.  However, this outreach is not limited to McCarthy employees.  

The McCarthy NorPac region is again leading the charge for change by hosting hands-on learning opportunities for high school girls to learn more about the construction industry.  In order to do their part and increase the percentage of women in the construction industry as well as support the McCarthy Partnership for Women’s objectives, the NorPac region has hosted events such as “Construction 101 Day.”  This event started in Southern California, but was quickly adopted by the NorPac region.  The event strives to introduce teenage girls to the construction industry and teach them skills they may have not explored elsewhere.  It offers participants firsthand insight into various construction industry career paths.  

The challenge in increasing the number of women in the construction industry is a continuing battle, but these events keep moving the industry towards a more inclusive future.  According to McCarthy’s Ann Poppen, “[the] knowledge gap around how women can contribute to the construction profession leads to unconscious biases among men and women about women in construction.”  This leads to a false notion that a career in construction is for men, which is easily disproved by McCarthy’s NorPac region alone.  The team at McCarthy believes that the only way to address this stigma is to understand these biases and work together with others in the interest of both current and future generations in the construction industry.


Luke Carothers is the Editor for Civil + Structural Engineer Media. If you want us to cover your project or want to feature your own article, he can be reached at lcarothers@zweiggroup.com.

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