Build What Matters with the Women of Saunders

Posted On: March 8, 2024

A celebration of Women in Construction Week and the women who shape our organization and industry.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10.8% is the percentage of women employed in the construction industry in 2023. The construction industry is historically one of the most male-dominated industries.

Women in Construction Week (WIC) was first recognized nationally in 1998, after decades of hard work from the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) to spread awareness and help others break into the industry. Since it’s creation, we have celebrated  the accomplishments of women in our industry and at Saunders, encouraging and supporting the progress women have made so far and in the years to come.

At Saunders, WIC isn’t just a week, it’s a movement we support year-round. Our organization is made up of female trailblazers, seasoned leaders, mentors, industry veterans and advocates. We recognize their contributions in the construction industry, while also bringing attention to the career opportunities available for females in a male-dominated industry.

This year, we interviewed 12 women from different positions and departments around Saunders, asking them why it’s important to celebrate women in the construction industry.

The future of women in construction is bright

The theme of 2024 is “Keys to the Future,” and we asked each featured woman how they think women are shaping the future of construction.

“The most important way women shape the future is to show our future generation that it is fun, we can bring a lot to the table, and make it happen,” said Kim Williams, project administrator.

Senior Marketing Manager Cheryl Nichols has firsthand involvement with engaging youth in the trades, with programs such as Construction Con, an annual hands-on and immersive event attracting hundreds of Northern Colorado high school students to learn about careers in the trades.

Nichols also has a unique perspective, seeing the industry in a different lens not only as a woman, but in the marketing field.

“You get to work with all skill sets, capabilities and knowledge, and it provides you more opportunities to adapt, grow and learn. There are so many great aspects to what we get to do in marketing and providing knowledge into how we’re going to go in to sell and win work,” said Nichols.

She continues, “The future is bright for women. And the more that we can spread the word of the opportunities, pathways and options that the construction industry has to offer, getting that information to women and girls early on before they go into college or further down the road.”

Acknowledging the past and the contributions of women to today

Women have been involved in construction throughout history — this isn’t a new, modern concept. And it’s important to realize these contributions throughout the history of the industry and the history of Saunders. The earliest records of women in construction are evidenced as early as the 13th century. In Navarre, Spain, women were documented constructing stone and wood structures as day laborers. There are records of Jewish women constructing palaces and fortresses.

“Women are strong, and women have always known they were strong. I think sometimes the rest of the world is challenged with understanding that and catching up to that, but it’s something we’ve always known,” said Jody Cole, people services manager.

One of the first faces most employees see on their first day at Saunders is Cole. She has spent 30 years of her career dedicated to Saunders, shaping the organization and supporting Saunders in many ways from hiring, benefits, employee relations, advising career progression, and so much more.

It’s important to acknowledge the many women who have helped shape Saunders and act as mentors for others, helping to pave the way for the future of women at Saunders and in the industry.

“Since starting at Saunders, I was working with Maggie Karlos, who was just promoted to senior project manager. She’s been a pretty big mentor and influence in my career. She would trust me and help coach me through how to handle difficult situations or learning new skills towards becoming a PM,” said Assistant Project Manager Addison Sundeen.

“The best piece of advice I’ve received,” said Project Engineer Mitali Vaidyanath, “came from a project manager I really look up to, Amanda Disney. She said, ‘Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions. That’s the only way that you will learn.'”

She continues, “oftentimes, you may not be the only one with that question. So if you have the courage to stand up and say, ‘Hey, I don’t fully understand this, explain it to me,’ it only benefits those present in that conversation.”


The intersection of gender minorities and cultural minorities

People of cultural and racial minorities make up a large percentage of the construction industry (42% nationwide, 45% at Saunders).

Saunders has made strides in our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) journey because of our alignment with our core values. Examples include: conducting unconscious bias training, hosting an industry Women’s Summit during WIC week, and evolving our recruiting program to target a diverse workforce. Additionally, we continue to drive positive change where we live and build through our trade partner Community Outreach Task Force and program.

However, we know there is still much work to do. The Saunders DEI committee has been hard at work researching our current baseline and implementing the next steps in our DEI journey.

Vaidyanath represents the intersection between being a gender minority and cultural minority at Saunders. Born and raised in India, she moved to the United States to attend college, and joined Saunders in March 2018.

“I have seen a lot more diversity, even in the short span that my career has lasted. When you have different perspectives on problems and the way things are done, it does nothing but bring the best solution to the forefront,” said Vaidyanath.

Carpenter Jaquelin Gonzalez also represents this intersection. Gonzalez works in the field every day in a position that is even more male-dominated.

“WIC, to me, means recognition for all women, not just myself, but all women that work in construction who often face challenges and discrimination in a male-dominated field,” said Gonzalez.

WIC Week reminds us to bring attention to the diversity in our organization and industry, but it shouldn’t be limited to just one week.

“WIC is important because you hear these stories from people at other companies and around the country and the world, and you start to realize a lot of people have the same stories and backgrounds and experiences,” said Project Manager Anna Gannon.

She continues, “It makes you realize, that even though sometimes you may feel alone, you’re not. And you know there’s a community around you. And I also hope this week is an inspiration for girls in school or women in another career that you can do this.”


The women behind the scenes fueling the success of projects

When asked how they see construction changing in the future, or even in the near past, most women featured this week said “technology.”

“When I started with Saunders, we worked with paper, mail, phone, things like that. And now, it’s real time communications and being able to streamline things. It makes it a good work environment,” said Project Administrator Kim Williams.

Departments such as the Integrated Technologies Group (ITG) and Information Technology (IT) face this change head on. Jill Bubenik, integrated services coordinator, is improving the future of Saunders and the industry through her work with technology and solving these challenges before they become issues in the field.

“I think technology within construction has changed drastically in the last ten years,” said Bubenik. “I think it has created a constant learning curve for everyone in the industry, and it’s moving so fast, creating complex projects, shortening schedules and creating really big challenges for project teams.”

For Sarah Todd, service desk manager in IT, these changes are what keeps her job interesting and exciting. As the service desk manager, she is connected with almost everybody in our organization.

“IT is something that changes so quickly and so often that you’re always on this trajectory where you’re learning something new or wanting to learn something new,” Todd said.

Women in leadership positions are crushing gender norm stereotypes

This week, we also featured many women who sit in leadership positions in our company. Allison Egan is an experienced and respected preconstruction manager at Saunders. Aside from her construction hat, Egan wears another hat at home — mother.

“Being a mom is my number one priority. Family first at all times. And I could not feel that support more from Saunders. I would love to continue to be an inspiration for other moms and other women in the industry in general. I love mentoring people, I really do find joy in someone coming in and learning and watching them grow.”

Egan’s favorite part of her job is the people. “I love the team aspect of construction. I’ve always just really had a joy working around the people, it’s the mentoring and training piece that I truly love, and leading individuals in our group and on the operations team.”

Similarly, Accounting Manager Daun Adkisson’s favorite part of her job is her team. “It’s 100% the people. I love creating an environment where they feel important and heard. We really work together well.”

Media Contact
Teena Bergstand

Senior Director of Marketing Strategy
(303) 699-9000

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