women_in_cinstruction.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

Today’s women in construction know how to succeed in today’s challenging economy – and they’re not all wearing hard hats. While many are employees of construction companies, a growing number of women in construction are running their own businesses.

They will discuss their experiences when Miami hosts the National Association of Women In Construction’s Florida Regional Planning Conference, Oct. 22-23 at the Mayfair Hotel in Coconut Grove, Miami.

According to the recent study by the Florida International University Center for Leadership and the Commonwealth Institute of South Florida, titled, “Florida’s Woman-Led Businesses 2010,” the decisions women-led businesses make – and their ability to keep their businesses growing and surviving during this tough economy – positions them strategically during Florida’s recovery.

The top 50 women-led businesses in Florida employ about 9,000 people and boast per-company revenues of at least $5 million each.

Since its founding 55 years ago, the NAWIC, an international non-profit organization, has grown to a membership of 5,500 women with more than 160 chapters worldwide. Over the years, its mission has stayed the same: “To enhance the success of women in the construction industry.”

The Miami Chapter will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2011.

More than 100 women in construction from around the state will attend the conference in Miami that will feature NAWIC National President Debra M. Gregoire as the headline speaker.

The conference will open with a reception and installation of board members of the Miami chapter starting at 6 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Mayfair.

The 2010-2012 officers are Clare Whelan, president, CEO of Doors Inc.; Rhonda Wimberly, immediate past president, director of community affairs of Turner Construction; Lucia Soria, vice-president, CEO of Ram-Tech Construction; Marilyn Mills, treasurer, office manager of Epperson Cranes Inc..

Also, Lina Ortega, secretary, project engineer with Turner Construction;  Matina deRosa, parliamentarian, attorney with Turner Construction; Yordy Rivero, Region 3 chairwoman, executive vice president with Vila & Son Landscaping; Leslie Livesay, Student Chapter representative, president of the Florida International University Student Chapter.

General board members are Nancy Tobin, vice president for construction, Miami-Dade County Public Schools; Erika Calzado, senior estimator with Merkury Construction; Patricia Bonilla, CEO of Lunacon Construction; Nancy Vallejo, marketing and public relations specialist for Designers Specialties Millwork; and Christina Blake, attorney with  Kelley, Kronenberg, Gilmartin, Fichtel & Wander.

During the two days of educational workshops and seminars, members will decide on plans for next year.  This includes strong emphasis on giving back through scholarships.

NAWIC chapters nationwide have awarded more than $4 million in scholarships to students pursuing construction-related studies, including ongoing scholarships awarded each year to students at FIU’s School of Construction Management and other institutions.

“Women are changing the face of Miami’s construction scene with every new project,” Clare Whelan, incoming president of NAWIC’s Miami Chapter and CEO of Doors Inc. Miami said in a statement announcing the conference.

“From universities to expressways, from airports to convention centers, more hardhats are being worn by women on jobs than ever before.  For the first time ever, our Miami chapter’s president, vice president and a board member are all CEOs of their own companies,” Whelan said.

“This represents the new face of Florida’s construction industry,” said Whelan, herself an example of the advancement of women in construction.

After college, Whelan became a carpenter apprentice and eventually started her own commercial construction company in Miami. She serves as volunteer coordinator for the Miami conference.

“Girls weren’t even allowed to take Shop class when I was in high school,” said Whelan.  “Thankfully, that’s changed.”

IF YOU GO

WHAT:  National Association of Women In Construction Florida Regional Conference. The meeting is open to members and prospective members but the reception is open to the public.

WHEN: Oct. 22-23

WHERE: Mayfair Hotel, Coconut Grove, Miami

CONTACT: For more information on the conference, log on to www.nawicmiamifl.org.