Nearly five years after holding its first meeting in Southern California, Women in Construction Operations (WiOPS) is launching a new Northern California Chapter on January 17, 2018. Open to professional women and men in the construction, architecture and engineering industries, the launch will take place at Dome Construction in San Francisco.

WiOPS, which aims to provide a forum to mentor and further the advancement of women in the building industry, has grown to nearly 600 members in Southern California since its first meeting in 2013. Following its Southern California success, the WiOPS Northern California Chapter will hold future evening meetings on the last Wednesday of the month at member offices and various locations throughout the Bay Area.

"WiOPS is bringing professional women in the industry together with the purpose of providing a place for them to learn more about technology and development in the industry, as well as a place to discuss the specific issues women face in their careers and obtain feedback and guidance from others who have been through it," said Jennifer Lauritzen, project executive for Swinerton and WiOPS Northern California board member, in a news release.

Holly Cindell, WiOPS governing board member says when they started the organization five years ago, "our board planned to have three events a year, and we were unsure if anyone would attend. Our sights broadened when more than 150 people joined after our first meeting. Since that time, membership has quadrupled, and our SoCal meetings are booked through 2018 with AEC industry companies vying to host our events,” says Cindell, who is also a project executive for Lendlease (US) Construction, and one of WiOPS' 12 founding board members.

Cindell told me the idea to form WiOPS began in summer 2012, when they noticed a glaring lack of role models for women who were directly involved in the operations side of the business. She says women were lacking in positions such as senior project managers, project directors and executives, operation vice presidents of and upper level executives.  

"Therefore, we geared our outreach towards members involved in operations, and we have focused our technical events around exposure to elements on the operations side," says Cindell.

Some of the technical events that WiOPS have held include tile setting, high voltage wiring, basic electric means and methods, drywall framing, taping and patching, fire caulking, demolition, hazardous material abatement, regulations and containment, and plumbing basics including soldering of copper, fixture installation, clean room fabrication and automatic welding, and metal panel fabrication.

"It's gratifying to see many of the women who I have met through WiOPS develop and grow in both their lives and careers," says Sarah Carr, WiOPS governing board member and vice president of education services at McCarthy Building Companies. "Advancing females in construction was a new challenge for all of the women on our board, and to see how we all grew and evolved together in the last five years is amazing."

Cindell says with the launch of new chapters, WiOPS is restructuring to allow each chapter to have a local board of directors, along with a governing board. "We went from eight board members to 22 board members on three boards, over the last few months," she says. "The governing board will be tasked with compliance and the global industry outreach, while the chapter boards will continue to carry on the mission of reaching the women in construction operations in their given territory.

Cindell says looking forward, WiOPS will look to expand into more cities, and to collaborate with professional organizations that "also support the advancement of women in construction, but serve a different or broader audience."

WiOPS began structuring its Northern California Chapter in May 2017 and this month, the Governing Board installed the following Board of Directors for the Northern California chapter. Each member on the Board of Directors will serve three-year terms with officers serving in their positions for one year. The Board of Directors for the Northern California chapter are:

  • President - Ha Le Khac, Business Development, ISEC
  • Vice President - Kelly Coogan, Sr. Project Manager, McCarthy Building Companies
  • Treasurer - LaDrena Dansby, Project Director/Associate, Vanir Construction Management
  • Secretary - Marie Patterson, Preconstruction Manager, Murray Company
  • Melissa Berg, Associate Director, Dome Construction
  • Jennifer Lauritzen, Project Executive, Swinerton
  • Stacie McConnell, Operation Manager, ISEC
  • Christina Greystone, Sr. Project Engineer, ISEC