Meet the women of the Arizona Builders Alliance
Of the 9.8 million people working in the construction industry as of 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, 872,000 of them, or 8.9 percent, are women.
Although construction remains a mostly male-dominated industry, more women enter the field each year, including at the executive and leadership levels.
As decision-makers within their respective companies, these women represent a diversity of disciplines along with the hard work and determination needed to be successful in any industry.
Lorraine Bergman, never envisioned being directly involved in operating Caliente Construction when she and her husband Tom founded the company in 1991.
President and CEO at Caliente Construction, Inc.
Industry Experience: 28 years
However, after the passing of her husband in 2005, she took over as president and CEO. Today, the company is one of the largest woman-owned businesses in Arizona and ranks in the top 50 of all Arizona general contractors.
Bergman says, “While the circumstances of my entering the field of construction were both heartbreaking and challenging, the decision to assume leadership of the company has been a blessing.”
In 2005, she says, “Many believed the company would not survive under my leadership.”
But, 12-years later, Caliente has experienced phenomenal growth and more success than ever.
Although Bergman is the president and CEO, she considers herself to be like every other employee at Caliente; in the office working each day. She prides herself on being very hands-on and approachable, and takes an active role in every company endeavor, whether it’s visiting jobsites, reviewing bids, meeting with clients or mentoring employees.
“When I look back, being a woman was not the issue, but rather my limited industry experience, which was offset by education and perseverance,” she explains. “I love this industry, have learned so much and have had the opportunity to work with amazing people.”
Advice: “While you may not be an expert in every aspect of your industry, educate yourself; and surround yourself with people who have the skills and knowledge that compliment your own, and never be afraid to ask. The worse that can happen is they say, ‘No.’”
Before assuming the role of vice president and CFO at General Air Control Inc., Angie Ziegler was a stay-at-home mom.
Vice president and CFO at General Air Control, Inc.
Industry Experience: 24 years
When the company’s Founder Joseph Gac suffered a heart attack in 1993, preventing him from leading the company, Ziegler and her husband Jon became owners of the firm the following year and incorporated the business in 1995.
She brings the same nurturing, supportive approach of a stay-at-home mom to her new job in the office. Ziegler says, “Initially, as the sole female in the firm, I felt out of place at times, but as I began to play the role of ‘company mom,’ I felt more in my comfort zone.”
Her maternal leadership style has since imbedded itself into the company’s culture, which is structured around a family model.
Admittedly, Ziegler’s biggest challenge was a lack of experience, which she overcame with the support of Jon who first began working for the firm in 1982. Together, they got engaged in industry associations like the Arizona Builders Alliance to network and better educate themselves.
Through the ABA, Ziegler eventually crossed paths with Shirley Dail of Shirley’s Plan Service, a woman she greatly respects and admires. Shirley was instrumental in starting the local chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction.
Described as a leader, confidant, mentor and friend to both men and women in the industry, Ziegler says, “This incredible woman blazed a trail for our gender at a time when women were restricted to secretarial roles in construction.”
Whether it’s her family, work family or anyone else she encounters in her daily walk of life, Ziegler adds, “There’s no greater joy than to know that you’ve made someone feel valued and appreciated.”
Advice:“Trust your instincts. There is a plethora of advice offered in this day of modern technology but a good dose of common sense can go a long way.”
Since she began working at the family-owned business in 1993, Denise Hernandez held many different positions as she learned how each department functioned at every level within Hernandez Companies.
Vice president at Hernandez Companies, Inc.
Industry Experience: 24 years
“I never thought I would have a career in the construction industry, but when my Dad asked me to join the company,” she says, “I said, ‘yes,’ and I’ve never regretted my decision.”
24 years later, she’s grateful for the opportunity to work with both her dad and brother who have become mentors and role models for her. She describes them both as positive, hardworking and knowledgeable with a strong work ethic and, adding, “I’ve succeeded in surrounding myself with very strong and intelligent people and that makes me who I am today.”
It’s a mode of thinking that she adopted from her father. “He taught us the importance of work ethic, values and surrounding ourselves with people who are experts in their field,” Hernandez explains.
Those principles help define how she approaches the challenges that she may face at work. “We all have challenges regardless of our gender, race or even our ideas,” she adds. “I just do my best to figure out a solution and try again until the issue is resolved.”
To date, her favorite project is still the Arizona Cardinal’s stadium in Glendale where the company painted several interior surfaces including University of Phoenix Stadium on top of the stadium’s roof, which Denise viewed first hand after climbing countless stairs to the top.
Advice: “I think the key for success for anyone in construction is education, communication and networking. It’s absolutely invaluable to know the people who make up this industry. They are your allies.”