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The best of the best: 5 women transforming the construction industry

International womens day 1

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In honor of International Women’s Day, we celebrate 5 industry leaders who are driving real change in construction. The sector has long been male-dominated – only 11% of the workforce are women – with challenges such as great pay gaps and gender bias, but progress is happening. If these 5 innovators have anything to do with it, the future of construction looks very bright.

1. Nancy Novak, Chief Innovation Officer, Compass Datacenters

Nancy is a longstanding industry leader, with over thirty years of experience in delivering US$ 3.5 billion in critical infrastructure projects. In her current position with Compass Datacenters, a leading US-based data center construction firm, she drives the adoption of cutting-edge technology.

Before joining Compass, she held a range of roles at Balfour Beatty and Hensel Phelps, spearheading the construction of airports, hospitals and government assets like the Pentagon.

​​​“Real change only happens when people in positions of influence and power take on the roles of advocates for talented women and minorities.” [1]

Nancy sits on the board of the World Trade Institute and serves as Vice Chair on the National Institute of Building Sciences BIM Council. A staunch believer in diversity, she also hosts the “Breaking Glass” podcast, where she interviews dynamic tech industry women on today’s most pressing technology issues.

2. Katie Coulson, Vice President – Account Manager, Skanska USA Building Inc.

Katie started her career at Skanska, a leading global contractor, twenty-three years ago, working her way up to Vice President – Account Manager, managing a team of 200+ across the western US.

Katie utilizes her vast industry experience to advocate for industry diversity, inclusivity, and equity for all. For example, she created a field engineer role and recruited directly from organizations like Oregon Tradeswomen, a group that provides training and support for women in construction.

​​​“I choose to work in construction to solve challenges while providing opportunities to help people succeed and create a more diverse and inclusive environment where everyone belongs.” [2]

In 2014, she played a large part in launching the Northwest chapter of the Skanska Women’s Network, which champions gender fairness.

It’s no surprise that Construction Dive selected her as a “2022 Construction Champion: Industry Veteran,” recognizing her as one of the true stalwarts and role models in the business.

3. Leah Turner-Jenkins, Business Manager, Special Projects Division, Turner Construction

A twenty-year veteran of the construction industry, Leah is currently the Business Manager of the special projects division at Turner Construction, a US-based construction company with a large global presence, where she creates innovative strategies around information services, software and systems.

A tireless champion of diversity, Leah is dedicated to mentoring the next generation of women in construction, serving on the board of Spark, a nonprofit that provides middle school children with career guidance and skills.

​​“I decided civil engineering would afford me an opportunity anywhere in the world and I knew I wanted to focus on construction because I would have an ever-changing environment with a new challenge to solve every day.” [3]

She sits on the advisory board for the Oakland Teen Empowerment Program for young women and is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), tirelessly working for inclusivity and equality. In acknowledgement of her industry contributions, she earned a place in the 2022 San Francisco Business Times “40 Under 40” awards.

4. Sara Wengrowski, Data Center Civil Engineer, Meta (formerly Facebook)

Sara began her career in heavy construction engineering work with Bechtel Corp. In four short years at Meta, she has risen to become Data Center Civil Engineer, part of the Data Center Design / Center of Excellence team, supporting the global scaling of Meta's data center portfolio.

She was recently awarded one of Meta’s prestigious fellowship positions, enabling participation in a rotational leadership program.

Outside of her work with Meta, Sara mentors women pursuing degrees in engineering and careers in construction through her alma mater, Rutgers University, and her local chapter of the 7x24 Exchange’s Women in Mission Critical Operations.

Acknowledging her promising future as an industry leader, Construction Dive included Sara as one of the “2022 Construction Champions: Rising Stars.”

​​“Sara displays a masterful ability to establish rapport and inspire confidence,” her Construction Dive nominator said. “I have no doubt that she’ll continue to galvanize the folks that she works with, and even the industry as a whole, as she gains more experience, responsibility and opportunity to effect even greater change.” [4]

5. Alisa Hobson Lewis, Project Manager, McCarthy Building Companies

Since joining McCarthy as a project engineer in 2005, Alisa has worked across a range of hospital, science center and higher education construction projects. She’s currently a project manager on the US$ 1.7 billion Next NGA West campus in the midwestern US, ensuring design and construction work follows strict federal regulations.

​​“Construction is an intersection of my love of architecture, people and problem solving. I am proud of being a part of building projects that not only have an impact on the immediate community, but also the region, nation and world.” [5]

Alisa is very passionate about mentoring minority women in engineering, construction and other STEM fields, speaking regularly at schools about career opportunities. She also serves on the McCarthy for Women leadership team, which supports the recruitment, growth and retention of women in construction.

For all her accomplishments, the St. Louis Business Journal (Missouri, US) honored Lewis in its annual “40 Under 40” list.

With these 5 women at the helm, innovation, diversity and inclusivity will continue to gain industry ground, getting us to where we need to be. We look forward to following their careers and finding inspiration in their work.








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Steph Broadfield