Celebration: Professional Women in Building week


Four Clark County women share their rewarding experiences in the building industry

They see a project go from the idea stage to completion. 

That’s the thing right there, the driving force in so much of the construction industry, to help build a dream.

Officials with the Building Industry Association of Clark County (BIA) hope more women get the opportunity to experience that feeling within the construction business. 

This week is Professional Women in Building Week. The BIA is calling for an increase in opportunities for women after a recent survey showed that women make up roughly 10 percent of the workforce.

Clark County Today spoke to four women from the region who say their jobs are rewarding and challenging. 

Lisa Harker, Colleen Frank, Ginn Group

One of the women interviewed for this story was working toward a nursing degree in the 1990s but never went back to health care once she got the bug to help build.

Lisa Harker was working toward a nursing degree in the 1990s but fell in love instead with the building industry. She works for Ginn Group. Photo courtesy Ginn Group
Lisa Harker was working toward a nursing degree in the 1990s but fell in love instead with the building industry. She works for Ginn Group. Photo courtesy Ginn Group

“My father is a civil engineer. He needed some help,” said Lisa Harker, a pre-development project manager for Ginn Group. “I saw what he did and fell in love with it.”

She started asking questions from experts in the field, and she taught herself how to draft. Before computers took over, she proudly claims, “a straight edge and ink pen” was how they used to draw.

The Ginn Group of Vancouver is involved in all aspects of residential real estate, including development and building, according to its website.

Today, Harker’s job is to reach out to the city and county to propose a project once her team finds land.

“I take it all the way through engineering and construction plans to build a project,” she said.  

The best part of her job?

“Seeing bare land and watching it go to actually having homes on it, and being able to provide a place for a community,” she said.

While the statistics show that few women are in the building industry as a whole, Harker noted that more than half of the employees at Ginn are women.

“In all my 26 years (in the industry), I don’t think I ever felt or came across a situation where a woman was pushed out because she was a female,’ Harker said, adding she knows more and more women are studying engineering so the number of women in the industry should rise in the near future.

Colleen Frank, marketing manager for Ginn, noted that women make up half of the company’s leadership team, as well.

Colleen Frank, marketing manager at Ginn Group, said women make up half of the company’s leadership team. Photo courtesy Ginn Group
Colleen Frank, marketing manager at Ginn Group, said women make up half of the company’s leadership team. Photo courtesy Ginn Group

“Here, we really focus on training and growing as individuals,” she said, adding that everyone is provided with the same access. “We just happen to have a lot of great women here.”

They’re not just at Ginn Group, though.

Crystal Simensen, Affinity Homes

Crystal Simensen is a purchasing manager at Affinity Homes. She has been in the industry for about 10 years. She said she has had two mentors, men, who never treated her any differently than other men at the office.

Crystal Simensen, purchasing manager at Affinity Homes, said it is such a rewarding experience to see the finished product in the building industry, to know she played a part in making someone’s dream come true. Photo courtesy Crystal Simensen
Crystal Simensen, purchasing manager at Affinity Homes, said it is such a rewarding experience to see the finished product in the building industry, to know she played a part in making someone’s dream come true. Photo courtesy Crystal Simensen

At Affinity, the mission is to build a custom home based on the buyer’s vision. Simensen said she does a little bit of everything but her speciality is updating specifications for each house. 

“Throughout the build, I’m verifying that everything is correct with the buyers,” she said.

“I call us a custom-custom builder. The buyer gets to choose every aspect of their house. We don’t have packages. They actually choose everything,” Simensen said.

The end of a project is special.

“When I hear from a buyer stating that they love their house, that’s rewarding for me,” Simensen said. “I get to walk the houses, see the finished product. ‘Wow, I got to help.’”

Alexa Lee, GRO Outdoor Living

Alexa Lee is the experience manager at GRO Outdoor Living, a company that prides itself on “outdoor spaces designed and built for inspired living.”

Lee said a customer and a friend recommended she seek work at GRO when she was looking for a new challenge in her career.

“I came to love it,” Lee said, noting that her role flourished quickly.

Alexa Lee, experience manager at GRO Outdoor Living, said she loves working with clients from start to finish on a project. Photo courtesy Alexa Lee
Alexa Lee, experience manager at GRO Outdoor Living, said she loves working with clients from start to finish on a project. Photo courtesy Alexa Lee

“My responsibility is to manage (the customer’s) experience from first call in to the final walk-through,” she said, ensuring that all is executed. 

She said it would take too long to describe all the rewarding experiences of her work in the industry, at GRO. The company, she said, promotes community outreach, not just the bottom line. She enjoys working with different contractors, and she cherishes her interactions with homeowners, solving problems for them.

“I love getting to have a hand in the next memory,” she said.

As far as getting more women into the industry, Lee said companies should recruit them just like they recruit anyone. She mentioned that women hold many different roles in the industry. 

For her, she was looking for her next challenge. She wanted to “expand” her knowledge. Her role at GRO gave her that opportunity. 

The perks, she said, have kept her there: The company values family and outreach, she said. 

Building industry labor shortage

BIA officials said that the industry as a whole is facing a labor shortage. This week is the perfect time to celebrate women in the industry and look for more opportunities for them.

“Now more than ever is the time for our industry to not only increase our recruitment efforts, but to also change the way we talk about careers in home building to show women this industry has so much to offer them,” said Avaly Scarpelli, the executive director for the BIA. “We need to help the public, guidance counselors, and parents understand that the industry provides a high income, significant work values, job security, and a sense of accomplishment.”

As the women highlighted in this story say, it is a rewarding career, helping others build their dreams.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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