Said Grimmett, "I have never met a successful woman who was ho-hum about her job."

Bionda urged attendees to seek the highest-placed mentors possible and "have them push you more than you want to be pushed."

Three male CEOs acknowledged issues and impacts of gender differences in industry corporate cultures but said "things are changing."

Peter Davoren, CEO of Turner Construction, said the growing female voice in companies "goes against the culture we grew up  in" and pointed to firm "blockers" that still impede new roles for women.

"[The blockers] are great builders but not so good on training. They have to be retrained," said the contractor CEO.

Anthony Mann, CEO of subcontractor E-J Electric Installation Co., said the firm has several women leading major company projects and two are field supervisors.

But he was "not happy" at where the mechanical-electrical-plumbing sector is on womens' advancement. "[Women] are still asked who their father is, and they have to prove themselves over and over," he said.

Bruce Fowle, founding principal of architect FxFowle, acknowledged that, even with more women in the industry, some men "are hesitant to let women control their lives."

But Fowle said the internet and email "are the great equalizers. There are no gender tests. Women have helped transform the profession."

Davoren said his company depends on the broadest array of talent to be successful. "We need to put the right teams together to manage the daily chaos," he said.

Fowle said women must change perceptions that they are more interested in the creative and environmental aspects of projects, not about the bottom line.

Mann encouraged women to make good use of their technical skills, "ask questions and take on different assignments."

Davoren urged attendees to "stretch themselves" by reaching out to more people, "not just the ones you report to."

He said management is listening to women. "Women want advocates, they want to be fulfilled, and management has to make them fulfilled," said Davoren.