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10 Women in Construction Leading the Way

Traditionally a male-dominated field, construction is increasingly opening up to women owners and CEOs. According to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), women make up around 10 percent of the industry overall, with construction and contracting seeing significant growth in women-owned firms over the past few years.

Today about 13 percent of construction-related companies are owned by women, a 64 percent jump between 2014 and 2019 that reflects a significant trend in the industry.

With the number of women entering STEM-related professions on the rise, and local and national associations for women in construction offering much-needed opportunities for networking and support, women are making significant inroads into this growing industry.

These 10 women are among those leading the charge, directing standout businesses in construction and contracting.

CTI Environmental: Robin Thorne

Multiple award-winning businesswoman and chemical engineer Robin Thorne (pictured above) is the founder and CEO of California-based CTI Environmental, which specializes in hazardous materials assessments for regulatory compliance and construction management.

Over the past decade, Thorne — an African-American entrepreneur, community leader and activist — has grown her company to become a thriving multi-million-dollar business. She recently founded Demo Chicks, a non-profit that empowers young Black women to enter the construction, engineering and demolition industries.

Bjork Construction: Jean Bjork

Named one of Construction Business Owner Magazine’s Outstanding Women in Construction for 2020, Jean Bjork is president and owner of Bjork Construction, a general contractor based in Fremont, Cal., she founded with her husband in 1988.

Besides growing the business from residential construction to commercial contracting, Bjork works to mentor a new generation of women in the industry. Her company has been recognized by the San Francisco Business Times as one of the Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses in the Bay Area. In 2019 she received the National Women’s Business Enterprise Star Award from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

A. Marie Design Build: Angela Cacace

After her kitchen remodel was recognized in a national home improvement competition and earned a feature magazine spread, Angela Cacace decided to make her passion for carpentry, design and construction her career.

She founded A. Marie Design Build, a custom design and remodeling firm in North Carolina, and in 2017 launched the Move Over Bob community. Initially a lighthearted hashtag tracking her entry into the construction industry, the movement evolved into a vibrant professional organization offering support and networking for other women in the field.

Marker Construction Group: Peggy Hogan Marker

President and co-founder of the Marker Construction Group, Peggy Hogan Marker has more than 30 years of experience in the construction industry. She focuses on business development and oversees all marketing and community development for the Florida-based group.

Marker is also part-owner of her family’s real estate development companies with commercial, multi-family and residential holdings in New York and Florida. Construction Business Owner recently recognized her as one of 20 Female Leaders in Construction You Need to Know.

The Street Group: Rachel Street

Rachel Street dreamed of becoming a professional opera singer, but a series of health issues forced her to abandon her career in Italy. Back in her hometown of Philadelphia, she earned her contracting and real estate licenses and started renovating houses to sell. She eventually founded The Street Group and Hestia Construction, LLC, expert real estate, renovation and design firms.

Street documented her custom renovations on Instagram, eventually catching the eye of a television producer. Soon she was hosting DIY Network’s Philly Revival and HGTV’s Philly Street Flippin’. Street and her firms are known for their community service, including mentoring at-risk youth in business and skilled trades.

LMS General Contractors: Jennifer Todd

Jennifer Todd, founder and president of LMS General Contractors, was the youngest Black woman to receive a CSLB (A) General Engineering license in California. She later studied construction and contract law. Her firm, which specializes in demolition, disaster recovery, environmental and site work services, has offices in Florida and California.

Todd was named one of Construction Business Owner magazine’s 2020 Outstanding Women in Construction and was the first Black female construction business owner to be featured on the magazine’s cover, in November 2020. An advocate for job creation and employee development, she created A Greener Tomorrow in 2009, a construction training program for unemployed and underemployed people of color.

Cahill Contractors: Kathryn Cahill Thompson

Owner and CEO of the highest-earning woman-owned construction company in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kathryn Cahill Thompson of Cahill Contractors is the fourth generation of her family to work in construction. After earning a degree in engineering sciences from Dartmouth and an M.B.A. from Stanford, Cahill Thompson joined the family company as a project engineer in 2007 and rose to CEO in 2016.

In addition to running a company with about 300 employees and an annual revenue of more than $300 million, Cahill Thompson also serves on the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Kaplan Construction: Jane Kaplan Peck

With $49.5 million in annual revenue and 41 employees, Kaplan Construction, led since 2014 by owner and COO Jane Kaplan Peck, is ranked among the top 10 largest women-owned businesses in Massachusetts.

A leader in the industry, Kaplan Peck has been named a Women of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate by Banking New England magazine, an Outstanding Woman of Family Business by The Warren Group, Emerging Leader of the Year by the Associated General Contractors Massachusetts Chapter and a Women in Construction by Constructech magazine.

Brown Construction Collective (BCC+): Rita Brown

Despite decades of construction industry experience, Rita Brown, a mother of five, found companies were reluctant to hire her. So she decided to launch her own business. In 2017 she founded Brown Construction Collective (BCC+), a Michigan-based company specializing in steel detailing and construction consulting.

A strong advocate for diversity in the industry, Brown spearheaded Project: Accelerate! to educate women in Detroit about opportunities in construction. Supported by the National Association of Women in Construction, the free seven-week course touches on aspects of construction, engineering, design and building trades for women interested in entering these fields.

Atlantic Infra: Marilyn Grabowski

Listed among Construction Business Owner’s 20 Female Leaders in Construction You Need to Know, Marilyn Grabowski is the founder and owner of Atlantic Infra. This New Jersey-based firm is the largest and most experienced infrared contractor in the world, with dozens of employees and a net worth of about $30 million.

Since she launched the company in 2002, Grabowski has expanded to large-scale milling and paving services with a second company, Atlantic InfraStructure. She is an active mentor for other women entering the construction field.

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