In the Top 20 Under 40 judging process, ENR emphasizes that each class should demonstrate broadly the diversity of the industry: professional, geographical, cultural, racial, market sector and more. No one suspected, however, that the judges should be reminded to choose enough men! This year, 15 women rose to the top among the final 20. Here are comments from Top 20 women about what it’s like being female in construction.

Lacey Ahlf: After having been in the construction industry for 15 years, I had my second child, and I felt that the flexibility of construction wasn’t going to work for me, so I actually left the industry for a year. But I discovered that what I truly loved and was passionate about is the people, the problem solving, the camaraderie. So after a year I came back. Luckily, I left with great relationships and great terms, and I realized that as long as I communicate and have a great team to work with that’s flexible, I can be a working mom and also work in the industry I’m passionate about. It was a huge life lesson.

Gloria Samuel: How do we balance our personal life with work life? The reality is that balance doesn’t exist. There are going to be times when you’re doing things at work that are related to your personal life and vice versa. Cell phones with email and text messages make you reachable 24 hours a day. I think a culture of work/life integration is extremely important. It’s reality—not something we can get away from.

Monique Aguilar: Although I’m not currently a CEO, there’s always a possibility I could be the first female head of an organization. I would promote servant leadership—a beautiful model where you lead by serving others, making sure people are happy with where they work. It’s an environment where you want to come to work every day—what a concept!

Jessica Baker: I absolutely think we’re seeing more and more women enter the industry because of the outreach efforts that we’re doing at younger ages and for flexibility reasons. We’re thrilled to see the trend of more female hiring continue to go up—and it will if we continue to invest time in letting everybody know they have an opportunity in this industry.

Ashly Coggins: We are challenged to retain women at the 10- to 12-year mark. The easy answer is to blame it on child care, but I don’t buy it. I see women wanting more and managers not seeing them in that next role. If we were challenging women more in their jobs, then I think we would see a lot more women stay longer in the industry. Hopefully women, also, will feel safe saying, “I want to lead a team!”

Related Article: Advancing the Conversation: ENR's Top 20 Under 40 Discuss Critical Industry Issues