The Women in Concrete Alliance (WICA) a networking organization for women in the concrete industry-announced Rosa Olivia, owner/president, Cortamex, Baja, Calif., as the 2011 Woman of Distinction Award recipient at this year's Women in Concrete Luncheon & Forum held Wednesday, January 19, 2011.

The award celebrates women in the industry and an individual that signifies the spirit of the Women in Concrete Alliance.

Olivia began her career as a bookkeeper for her brother's concrete cutting company located in Tijuana Mexico. In 2001, she launched Cortamex, which supplies diamond blades to local agencies in Baja, Calif. and small warehouses. Currently, in her 10th year of business, Olivia is a well known and respected business woman in Mexico.

"I am surprised but greatly honored to be recognized among such a prestigious group of women," said Olivia.

"I congratulate [all of the nominees] for [their] accomplishments and hope [their] future holds continued success." Go to to learn more about Olivia, as well as the other nominees, the awards program, and the alliance.

Rosa Olivia

, owner/president of Cortamex, began her construction career as a bookkeeper for her brother’s concrete cutting company located in Tijuana, Mexico. Wanting the company to prosper, but not as part of her job description, she began visiting projects on her way into work each morning. She met with engineers, greeted contractors and discussed ideas with manufacturers. Her efforts resulted in increased knowledge and company growth. When her brother lost interest in the concrete cutting company, Rosa took over.

Her company, Cortamex, supplies diamond blades to local agencies in Baja, California and small warehouses. Whether it is one blade or 100 blades, Rosa takes the same care and attention for each customer. Currently, in her tenth year of business, Rosa is a well known and respected business woman in Mexico.

One example of her dedication: It was late one evening during the initial “blade testing“ phase of a project. Several competitors, manufacturers and representatives visited the job and greeted the engineers. These competitors dropped off sample blades for testing, took a look at Rosa and were on their way. The next morning the first of Rosa’s competitors arrived “early” with coffee in hand and a good night’s rest under his belt. Noticing Rosa was already on the job, he asked, “What time did Rosa get here this morning?” The engineer responded, “She never left. She has been here all night.” Needless to say, she was awarded that job and many more.

When asked about her success in the male-dominated construction industry, she responded, “Take the time to find out where your customer feels he or she needs improvement. Then go out and find a way to help that situation. Resolve the issue one time and then they are happy. Do it a second time and they are surprised. Do it a third time and you have a loyal customer.”

"I am surprised but greatly honored to be recognized among such a prestigious group of women. I realize the difficulties each of you faced on your journey to this point in your life. I congratulate you for your accomplishments and hope your future holds continued success." – Rosa Olivia

Lori Tiefenthaler, vice president - sustainability and marketing communications, at Lehigh Hanson, Inc., has been in the concrete industry for about 20 years and has distinguished herself as a tireless promoter of cement and concrete products and a leader in local promotion.

Prior to joining Lehigh in 2009, Lori ran the Southeast Cement Association since 2001, where she was responsible for overseeing all the cement and concrete promotion efforts the cement industry funds in that region.

She serves on a number of PCA and industry committees and is considered a leader in the industry in promoting to not only engineers, DOTs, contractors, and architects, but has also been heavily involved in developing political promotion efforts in the Southeast. Lori had previously distinguished herself as an excellent promoter with cities and counties in Iowa as vice president of the Iowa Concrete Paving Association.

“I am honored to be nominated for this award. For more than twenty-five years, I have been fortunate to have many great mentors and unique opportunities to contribute and share my passion and enthusiasm for the business. I am extremely proud to be recognized among the pioneering women in the concrete industry.” – Lori Tiefenthaler

Martha VanGeem is a principal engineer and manager at CTLGroup. She’s a researcher, but she speaks all over the world about sustainability. Whether her audience is at the Sierra Club, the Chicago Public Library, or ACI, Martha is an accomplished speaker. She can easily detect the audience's level of expertise, so she speaks in a way that will reach and resonate with them.

Martha is earning our industry's respect as the key spokeswoman on the topic of concrete and cement's contribution to sustainability. Her research at the Skokie, Ill., materials testing laboratory has focused on moisture migration, energy conservation, heat transfer, and thermal properties. But more importantly, the results of her efforts have yielded important conclusions about concrete's beneficial effects on the thermal mass and energy savings for buildings. Additionally, her research has led her to consult on several important LEED projects.

Martha was a proponent of concrete's environmental contribution long before the recent green movement started. She's been working with these issues for more than 25 years—before many even knew or cared about building sustainable structures. She can take satisfaction in the fact that the issues she has been espousing finally are becoming mainstream.

“I’ve enjoyed explaining the benefits of concrete to others (and doing the technical work to back it up) for the last 29 years. It’s an honor to be recognized for doing something that I enjoy and have put my heart into all these years.” – Martha VanGeem

Jo Coke, an employee of Cormix at the time, remembers Women in ACI beginning in the late 1980s or early '90s after a woman member wrote a letter to the editor of Concrete International magazine, complaining she was tired of being misidentified for someone's wife at the mixers.

Jo and an associate were inspired to gather as many female members at the convention as possible for an informal get-together. They went across the street to a friendly restaurant that let the group of 10 to 12 women meet in a back room. That was the beginning of the Women in ACI reception. At the next two conventions, Jo made pink 3x5-inch cards about a gathering, and passed them out to all the women members she could find.

Women in ACI is no longer an informal meeting, rather an opportunity for women in the industry to meet and network. Students and young professionals can meet inspirational female ACI fellows—women who have served ACI and made a difference.

Not only did Jo make a difference to the women attending ACI, she also became ACI’s first female president, an unlikely accomplishment when the Women in ACI meetings began.

“What a lovely surprise! Mentoring of women has always been important to me, and WICA’s mission statement warms my heart. I am flattered and honored to have been nominated.” – Jo Coke