A year after helping found a new organization to help mentor women in the construction industry, Holly Cindell, a project director with McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., was recently honored by the Associated General Contractors of California (AGCC) Construction Education Foundation with a Construction Education Friend Award. The award honors individuals for their "outstanding contributions to construction education and workforce development" and only one recipient is selected to receive it annually.

Mike Mencarini, chair, AGC of California Construction Education Foundation, said in a news release that Cindell is helping make a difference to empower women in a "non-traditional field by ensuring the next generation of women in construction is equipped with the confidence and appropriate skills to meet present and future workforce needs.

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Last year, Cindell helped form WiOPS (Women in Construction Operations), and is currently the organization’s co-chairwoman. After speaking with numerous women in different management positions within the industry, Cindell and Sarah Carr, McCarthy VP of operations for Education Services, decided to enlist the help of other women in likeminded careers to put together a plan to form WiOPS. 

"We set out to raise awareness among all construction professionals—men and women—about the unique challenges women face in the construction industry," said the women in a recent op-ed letter to ENR Magazine.

Launched with 10 founding members, the new professional organization, which currently has about 500 members, was created to provide support and mentorship to women working in or considering careers in operations positions in the construction, architecture or engineering industries.

Cindell said last year that the organization initially focused on mentorship for women, "because men in our business can find male mentors within their own organization.”

The organization started with a mission that is "committed to the advancement of women in construction operation positions and mentoring of future women leaders in our industry. Through mentorships, education and networking, we are dedicated to establishing a platform to share our goals and explore solutions to the unique challenges women encounter."

According to the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), there are fewer than one-million women employed in the construction industry, representing less than 10 % of the construction workforce. Additionally, of these 10 %, there are even a smaller number of women in professional and managerial positions.

WiOPS founding board members include: Co-chairwomen, Holly Cindell and Sarah Carr, McCarthy; Vice Chairman, Nancy Goldman, J&M Concrete Contractors; Secretary, Kasie Bowden, Hensel Phelps Construction Co.; Treasurers, Lia Tatevosian, Swinerton Builders and Lucy Villanueva, McCarthy; Membership, Amanda Corbet, McCarthy; and Events Coordinator, Shaabini Alford, Murray Company.

The organization currently holds monthly networking events and educational workshops tailored specifically for women in construction operations, and membership is open to women and men working in construction, architecture and engineering who are in operations, managerial, estimating, and design career paths.

Cindell received the Construction Education Friends Award at the AGCC 2014 Constructor Awards banquet held June 7 at Disney’s Grand Californian hotel in Anaheim, CA. Sometimes called the Academy Awards of the construction industry, the glitzy event recognizes California's most pioneering projects and talented members. Last year's winner of the Construction Education Friends Award was Robert Bourdet, with Redwood City-based W. Bradley Electric, Inc.