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ASCE OC Construction Institute: Hard Hats & Heels - Celebrating SoCal Women in Construction

On Friday, March 8th, ASCE OC Construction Institute's Hard Hats & Heels: Celebrating SoCal Women in Construction event occurred at the stunning Marina Park Community & Sailing Center in beautiful Newport Beach, CA. It was an eventful and memorable evening celebrating all the talented, inspiring, and resilient women in the construction industry who are influencing and impacting projects across Southern California.

It was an incredible event full of inspirational leaders, advocates, and champions, including seven prominent and distinguished figures in the engineering and construction communities. These figures, invited as our Guests of Honor for the night, included Amber Shah, Parks & Public Works Director and City Engineer for the City of San Marino, Carlos Castellanos, City Engineer for the City of Anaheim, Dr. Feniosky Pena-Mora, ASCE Society's President-Elect, Kim Holtz, Director of Survey & Engineering Services Bureau for the Port of Long Beach, Nardy Khan, Deputy Director of Infrastructure Programs for Orange County Public Works, Raja Sethuraman, Director of Public Works for the City of Costa Mesa, and Yaz Emrani, Director of Public Works & Town Engineer for the Town of Woodside. ASCE OC Construction Institute is incredibly thankful for the attendance and support of these remarkable individuals.

The evening they included an Industry Panel with five inspirational women who are leading, serving, and shaping the construction industry in Southern California - Anh Case, Vice President and Director of Construction Management in Southern California at EXP; Nadirah Wright, Vice President of Operations at Jacobs, Meredith Rose, Assistant Superintendent at Clark Construction, Stefanie Sandoval, Construction Inspector II at the Port of Long Beach, and Claris Purasinghe, Civil Engineering Associate at LA Department of Water & Power. ASCE OC Construction Institute is honored and thankful for having these women share their inspirational journeys with all guests and for their support and mentorship.

One of the values of the ASCE OC Construction Institute is to promote the development of the next generation of construction professionals. So, as part of this event, two students were awarded scholarships for their incredible impact on the construction community. The Undergraduate/Graduate Scholarship was awarded to Lorraine Alejandre, a California State University, Long Beach senior pursuing a bachelor's in construction management. Lorraine is actively involved in CMAA and WTS. Throughout her college career, she has held engineering and construction internships with Jacobs at LACCD, Kiewit at OCSAN, HDR at Port of Long Beach, and AECOM. Lorraine enjoys mentoring and volunteering and is passionate about educating young girls about construction.

The second award for the Trade/Vocational Student Scholarship was awarded to Maria Herrera, a carpenter at the Carpenters Union Apprenticeship Program Local 213, where she is involved in various types of projects and learning the skills needed to be a successful construction worker. Maria enjoys volunteering for the Reintegration Academy, a program designed to assist formerly incarcerated individuals in getting job training and finding a job. She also volunteers her time with the Youth Diversion program, where she speaks to troubled young individuals about her experience in prison and the opportunities available in the apprenticeship program. Congratulations to both scholarship winners!

The evening ended with two interactive roundtable discussions, during which guests could move to a different table and discuss important topics with other guests. Topics included career development, mentorship, career advancement, work-life balance, and overcoming challenges women face in the industry. It was a wonderful time networking and getting to know other talented and inspiring individuals in the industry.

This memorable event would not have been possible without the support of the following event sponsors: Jacobs and Bomel Construction (Gold Sponsors); AECOM, Z&K Consultants, and ASCE LA Section (Silver Sponsors); City of Anaheim (Bronze Sponsor). Thank you to all!

And lastly, a special thanks to the ASCE OC Construction Institute Committee for organizing such an incredible and successful event in such a short period: Esmeralda Briseno, Construction Institute Chair and Project Engineer at Jacobs, Marionne Lapitan, Construction Institute Committee Member (and website and marketing extraordinaire!) and Traffic /ITS Engineer at Jacobs, and last but not least, Jazzy Principe, Construction Institute Committee Member and Project Engineer at Jacobs. Your leadership and hard work did not go unnoticed. Thank you!

ASCE OC Construction Institute looks forward to hosting this event next year during Women in Construction Week 2025. Stay tuned for details! Thank you.


About the Author:

Esmeralda Aguirre is the ASCE OC Construction Institute Chair and a Project Engineer at Jacobs in their Program and Construction Management Division. She enjoys traveling with her husband, Victor, spending time with her two godsons, Ivan and Benjamin, and playing with her new cat, Louie! Esmeralda can be reached at or via LinkedIn.


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