Women are Changing the Face of Construction

March 7th – 12th is Women in Construction (WIC) Week and we couldn’t be more thrilled to share with you stories from some of the talented and successful women of South Bay Construction.

In  2018 a study found that women make up 9.9% of the construction industry in the United States. A study by AutoDesk and the Associated General Contractors of America found that “80% of contracts report difficulty finding qualified craft workers.” As put wonderfully by Danielle Dy Buncio, the co-founder and CEO of VIATechnik[t]he labor shortage, combined with the world’s continued need for infrastructure, housing, and other construction investment, means that we absolutely need women to join the industry and rise the ranks within the construction workforce. This means we must shake up the status quo and overcome obstacles and excuses that previously prevented us from seeing results. Simply stating,’not enough women applied to my job posting’ or ‘no women raised their hand for this promotion or leadership opportunity’ is not good enough and no longer acceptable.”

We recently spoke with Jenny Mata, our Office Manager, and Monica Valdez, one of our leading Project Managers about their experiences as women in the industry and at SBC.

Meet Jenny and Monica

How did you find your way into the construction industry?

JennyOriginally, I felt I found my way into the construction industry by accident, but after some reflection I feel it was my fate! At 20-years old, I attended a Job Fair in Downtown San Jose and was invited to interview for a position with the Palm Company. While I didn’t get the job, the recruiter referred me to a colleague of hers who worked for South Bay Construction. I interviewed, was offered a position, and voila! Twenty years and three kids later it’s everything I hoped for and more. I’ve enjoyed learning all the ins-and-outs of the industry, every one of my teammates, and working my way up from Project Administration to Office and Operations Management.

MonicaI have always been so fascinated with building since I was a little girl. When I had control of the remote I would flick channels and stop on “This Old House” at the age of 5. For my 13th birthday, at my request, my friends and I toured model homes in town.  Then in high school I experienced my first glimpse into the industry when I interned for an Architectural firm over the summer. At Cal Poly, I initially studied structural engineering but quickly learned that the construction management classes were my favorite! I loved learning about all phases to a building and how they came together.

What has this journey been like for you?

Jenny: Challenging, but very rewarding. I’ve worked with some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley Tech, R&D, and Commercial Real Estate and Development. In my earlier career, I was a part of the Project Management teams and now I oversee the teams that build some of the most unique, largest, and attractive infrastructure this area has seen. I feel especially proud to have been a part of the successful restructuring of the company during the current COVID Pandemic. While I am proud to say I have maintained a career even during the most difficult economic times, I am most proud to say that I did so all while being Mom to my three smart, beautiful, and healthy kids Maya (19), David (15), and Sofia (13).

MonicaIt’s been a journey of building perseverance.  As one of our first female Project Managers at SBC, I always felt the need to work harder and push myself to be better every day.

What has your experience been with mentorship, both as a mentor and as a mentee?

Jenny: All of my mentors are now some of my closest personal friends. I tend to hear from my mentees that they think of me as a mentor but also a bit of a mother figure.

MonicaSheree Schoenherr with Granite Rock is one of three women Project Managers I have had the pleasure to work with so far in my career.  All three women had very different leadership styles, However, I always looked up to Sheree for her knowledge and ability to standout in her field. She has been a wonderful mentor for the past few years and is a great friend. As I’ve started to run my own projects, I aim to be a good leader and mentor to my colleagues working alongside me.

What have you found surprising working in this industry?

Jenny: It’s surprising how functional and still creative design can be. Exteriors are more often now being used as extensions to indoor creative work spaces. The typical cubicle and fluorescent lit environments are a thing of the past. Everyone wants to build and work in a space that is unique and pushing the limits of functional work environments.

Monica: It’s surprising how cohesive the construction process has become. The design team, subcontractors, GC and owners work together for the greater good of the project.

What have you done in the past six months to encourage other women to take a leap into this industry or to advance their careers?

Jenny: The most recent advancement I am personally a part of is working with our current Office Coordinator advance to a Project Coordinator. She has successfully taken on additional responsibilities with marketing assistance and some of the Project Coordinator responsibilities, turning into a more valuable and experienced employee.

Monica:  I love seeing women succeed in their roles and am always open to talk when PE’s & PC’s come into my office with questions.

What do you find most exhilarating and exciting about your current role?

Jenny: I can honestly say I am excited to go to work every day. My door is typically joked at being revolving since I can have anyone at any time from any department in my office asking for my assistance. I love this because it keeps my days interesting and makes me feel satisfied in being able to help anyone that comes my way.

Monica: Every day brings a new challenge in this industry and no two days are alike. I love constantly learning and pivoting from issue to issue. There’s never a boring day on a jobsite!

Where do you want to go in this industry?

Jenny: I want to continue to grow with SBC and hope to attain Executive and possibly even a Partnership opportunity. I am very fortunate to be where I am and will continue to work hard to be better every day.

Monica: I would love to stay in the SBC family and continue to learn and rise in the ranks. I’m excited to be starting construction on our new ground-up project Altair in Sunnyvale and would like to continue to manage large core and shell projects.

When have you seen men acting as good allies? Any stories of this?

Jenny: My biggest mentor is Cameron Peach, one of the current Partners at SBC. He was my PM at a time I had wanted to be considered for the Administrative Manager position when it came available due to the Manager at the time leaving for a better opportunity. With his support, I worked up the courage to speak to our CFO and explained my interest in the position and asked to be considered. She unfortunately told me I was too inexperienced at the time for the position and I was denied, but I still remember that moment of courage that I found in myself and appreciated the support from Cameron who validated my experience at that time.

Monica: I have been working with fellow Project Manager, Chris Guerra, for the past five years. He has been a great ally and mentor to me. I started working with him as a Project Engineer where he allowed me to learn more than just my role and trusted me to take on more responsibilities. He has empowered me and helped me advance my career.

Tell us a fun fact or story about your life outside of work.

Jenny: I’m a passionate homebody. I know that a lot of people love traveling and going out constantly but I have definitely found my love for staying in and living locally. I enjoy cleaning and organizing my home with DIY projects or interior design updates. I love cooking with and for my family and baking is a new hobby of mine.

Monica: In 2020, my boyfriend and I bought our dream home in my hometown.  It’s a 100-year-old house which we have already started renovating and making our own.  Both of us work in the same industry so all of our construction knowledge is definitely coming in handy!


Building the Future

At South Bay Construction, we are proud to say that 33% of our team is made up of some of the smartest and most talented women in the field. Women now outnumber men in Project Engineering roles, and we have two women project managers where before we had none. We want to go further, and we are always interested to see who is looking for a new career opportunity as a Project Manager, Superintendent, Project Engineer, Project Coordinator, Project Accountant, or Field Laborer. You can find out more or apply here.

There is no future of this industry that does not involve women. There’s no excuse. Who’s your Jenny and Monica?    

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