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FOCUS - Bringing the balance

image Guadalupe Vasquez, Territory Manager, Houston Shell & Concrete, Houston, TX

AUSTIN - Guadalupe Vasquez can’t help but remember the reaction she received as a young girl visiting a jobsite, and the message it sent.







    “In my childhood, my dad was working out in the field in masonry, and you wouldn’t see females; the only reason I was there was to go with him to pick up his paycheck or something like that. It was weird in that I was always the daughter with the dad and not with the mom [on the site]. Even then, it was “What is she doing here?” From my perspective, [the inclusion of women in construction] has definitely changed for the good of the industry. It’s more balanced now.”
    Vasquez has strived to become a part of that balance. For the past five years, she has worked at Houston Shell as a territory manager. She previously worked in the home mortgage industry, but a layoff motivated her to visit a staffing agency to explore her options.
    “I went to an interview at an agency, and I was asked about my experience to try and find a fit,” Vasquez remembers. “The woman looked through her binder of open jobs to find something that matched my experience. When she reached one of the pages, she said that I wouldn’t be interested in the job on there; it was related to construction and building materials, so she told me about other opportunities. It turns out that, when I left, another staffing agency called me and asked me if I would like to interview for the same position that the first agency thought was not a fit for me. It turned out to be Houston Shell & Concrete (a CEMEX compamy).
    “As I got more involved with Houston Shell, I realized that it was definitely something I wanted to do,” Vasquez continues. “Construction to me has always been a strong, tough, get-it-done industry. I think that is a very good description of who I am.”
    Vasquez says she is fortunate to find mentors everywhere she goes on this journey.
    “There’s always something you can learn from someone,” she says. “I have found them here at Houston Shell, such as my sales manager, Lindsay Sparks, who has been in the business for a while. Even my customer base has mentors; I get to build those relationships as they advise me on how they started, how they once worked for someone else, and how they took that trade and made it bigger. I try to learn from everyone around me.”
    Vasquez hopes to keep growing with Houston Shell’s support. She also hopes to support other women who work in construction or who hope to join the industry.
    “I am the first-generation college graduate in my family,” Vasquez says. “I inspire those younger girls who are behind me – my nieces and little cousins – and they perceive me as a very strong woman. One day, I visited my niece and she was wearing a safety vest when I expected to see her playing with dolls. I said, “Wow! What made you pick that little safety vest?” and she said, “I want to be like you, Tía!” I was touched. I showed her the pictures on social media of what I do, and that inspired her to grab a safety vest when she was at the store.  I thought that was cool! It inspired her, so how many more women can we inspire? There are so few women in the industry and I feel like we can make a great impact.”
    Houston Shell & Concrete is a customized concrete, ready-mix supplier in Houston. –mjm

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net