Leaders live among us, but we can forget how many there are in the concrete industry. There's usually a good reason we revere someone's advice and view them as a leader. Throughout this industry, plenty of women are leaders. Their numbers may seem small, but their impact has been great. Women leaders can be found as researchers, educators, presidents, contractors, and producers.

Competing against the big guys

When the Women in Concrete Luncheon began at the World of Concrete, one shining star of the event included Kitty Hoyle, owner of Wellington Hamrick, Boiling Springs, N.C., a concrete plant. Hoyle's success at owning and operating a concrete plant in a man's world is significant. Although she is only one of a few women who heads a concrete producing operation, what is remarkable about her success is that Hoyle's firm is an independent company in a market dominated by large producers. “As a small business owner in manufacturing, I would like to see more women take advantage of the opportunities offered by entrepreneurship,” says Hoyle. “It truly allows women to make themselves successful with the fewer barriers.”

Making the world a greener place

Martha VanGeem, principal engineer and manager at CTLGroup, Skokie, Ill., is enthusiastic about her work. She is earning the industry's respect as a key spokesperson on concrete and cement's contribution to sustainability. Her research focuses on moisture migration, energy conservation, heat transfer, and thermal properties. She enjoys working with other women for a change. “The interesting thing about this whole green field is that there are more women than men. It's a little bonus,” says VanGeem.

Educating the future leaders

Jenne Imholte-Decker is the newly elected first female president of the International Grooving and Grinding Association.
JENNE IMHOLTE-DECKER Jenne Imholte-Decker is the newly elected first female president of the International Grooving and Grinding Association.

Heather Brown serves as the Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program director and associate professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tenn. Dedicated to teaching future construction professionals, Brown's vision for the CIM program is a collaborative International Center of Excellence for Concrete Education and Research. “We will continue practical, applied research efforts along with industry-driven training so that our students are a premium choice for concrete- and construction-related companies. I want CIM to be the clearinghouse for all products associated with the concrete industry,” says Brown.

Guiding the direction of the industry

Seeing the concrete industry get its fair share of work is a huge satisfaction for Jenne Imholte-Decker, the first female president of the International Grooving and Grinding Association (IGGA), West Coxsackie, N.Y. Imholte-Decker has worked long and hard and is now in a position that can impact the industry. “The authorization of the six-year transportation bill is very important to our infrastructure and I want to encourage and help ensure IGGA members earn their share of the work,” says Imholte-Decker. Imholte-Decker grew up in the industry and has learned a lot along the way. Armed with her knowledge and experience, she aims to bring work back to concrete contractors.

The next one?

Finally, there's Jennifer Harris, a graduate of the CIM program at Arizona State University, Phoenix, and a past recipient of an ACI Foundation Fellowship—an award given to undergraduate students with a career interest in the construction industry. Harris, a single mother of two children, graduated in May 2010 and plans to enter graduate school to study concrete sustainability. Will she be a future leader? Perhaps, but Harris is only the tip of the iceberg. With a million women working in construction, many unrecognized women leaders are making a difference every day.