Constructing Careers, Breaking Barriers

We're recognizing women throughout the month of March for Women's History Month, Women in Construction Week and International Women's Day.

The experience of women in construction has evolved over the years, which can be evidenced by our own team members at various stages of their own careers. Read our Q&A below to hear about their experiences.

Meet the Experts

Beth Duyvejonck, Regional Vice President of Construction in Minneapolis, has been engaged in design-build project management since 1997.

Megan Garner, Project Executive in Kansas City, began her career with us right after graduating from Marquette University in 2012.

Jaiden Lussier, Associate Project Manager in Denver, joined our team permanently in 2023 after graduating from college and prior internships with us and Lockheed Martin Space Facilities.


Why did you choose a career in construction?

Megan: My dad is an architect who did a lot of project management during his career. I was in high school when it started to pique my interest, and I saw that my organizational skills and attention to detail would be well applied to a career in construction project management.  

Organization and detail-orientated personalities do really well in anything, but definitely in construction!

I grew up in a blue-collar family with many family members in construction. My uncles, who are electricians, would often come home with stories of how the office would ignore the needs and experience of the field, so I entered construction with a mutual respect for both the field and office teams. My hope is to make the bridge between the two more collaborative and progressive. 

Megan: Yes, we all need to be on the same team!

Jaiden: I also have always loved building and talking, so this is a good place for me.

Beth: I had zero exposure to construction or project management as a career option until college. I have a “math brain" and was destined to be an engineer. I also have high spatial ability, which I thought at the time would only benefit me in playing Tetris and packing a suitcase! It wasn't until my freshman year at Iowa State University during an Intro course that I learned about Construction Engineering and immediately changed my engineering degree focus. I have been obsessed with building ever since.

What was your early experience in construction like? How have things changed?

Megan: Early in my career I was definitely more of a fly on the wall, absorbing and learning as much as I could. I eventually found my voice and my confidence increased dramatically.

Jaiden: Being early in my career, everything I do I am learning for the first time. Every conversation, scope, sub, negotiation, obstacle, etc. is my first as a full-time team member, so it can be intimidating knowing I don't know what I'm talking about quite yet. It's extremely helpful that I have such a wonderful team to learn from in Denver and that everyone helps me where they can. They also aren't afraid to let me be me on site and figure stuff out in my own way, which is good. Overall, it is both humbling and chaotic. 

Megan: Humbling and chaotic is such a great way to describe it!

Beth: I absolutely love to hear Megan and Jaiden's stories! My early career in construction looked a lot different than today.

As a Construction Engineering student and co-op (not at Opus) in the mid 1990s, I was encouraged to change my degree and career aspirations to find something that would be more appropriate for my “feminine leadership style." That is a direct quote used by a co-op supervisor and Construction Engineering advisor. When I started at Opus in 1997, it was still common practice to have tool girl pin-up calendars in jobsite offices where I was leading meetings.

Megan: Wow, this makes me cringe so much! I'm so happy that this has not been my experience, and that there has clearly been progress in the industry since then.

Beth: One of the first acts of advocacy I experienced in my career was the superintendents who made sure those were removed! Even with those speedbumps, I experienced early that the Opus culture respects talent. I was able to work with some incredible teams and find ways to provide value. Once I found and strengthened my network inside Opus – many of whom I still have the privilege of working with – I began to experience the power of trust and collaboration.

Let's talk intersectionality of age/career stage with being a woman in construction. What was/is it like to be young and a woman in construction? Do you think you experienced discounting more due to your age and gender?

Megan: Looking back at that time, I can recall feeling constantly unsure of myself and wondering if I had what it takes to be successful in this industry. During that time, I did not feel that I had really experienced any age or gender bias, but when I reflect back, I can see that it was there.

Jaiden: I definitely feel unsure sometimes as well.

Beth: Same here!

Jaiden: It can be both fun and frustrating. It can be hard to tell if I get treated differently because I am a woman, mostly because I tend to be the only woman in the room anyway, so not too much comparison there. Sometimes I think people can hear 23 and female through the phone and choose to discount me for that, but I don't think I encounter that as often as people think. My project team and subcontractor team know that I am feisty and not to be trifled with, so they don't tend to discount me. I think it also is to my advantage that while I don't have a lot of experience right now in the industry, I have experience conversing with tradesmen in my personal life and have a good handle on technology. My team also gives me good opportunities to take charge on scopes with subs and backs me up when I need it, which helps with the way they see me on projects.

Beth & Megan – When was your experience truly considered and valued?

Megan: I would say that came when I had the opportunity to manage projects, or parts of projects, on my own. That was probably a good four to five years into my career.

Beth: Managing scopes and projects independently was also a confidence-builder for me. Finding my voice took some time. It might be hard to believe now, but I was incredibly shy as a student and as a young project manager. It took both confidence and practice to get my voice in the mix. The more I heard from others that my contributions were important, the louder I was willing to raise my voice to get my ideas on the table. I'm grateful for everyone who encouraged me, and I try really hard to make that space for all of the great ideas that might not be getting heard now.

Beth, your career and life have changed and grown – you're a Wife and Mom of two girls and in company leadership. Tell us about your experiences with both. Have those identities intersected?

Beth: Oh definitely! The intersection of parenting and career development is an incredibly challenging and exhausting transition for all new parents. Adding to that are the physical demands of pregnancy and pumping (for nursing moms) while navigating a construction jobsite. I have a favorite example of advocacy from our field team when I was conducting a safety walk of the University of St. Thomas Athletic & Rec project while nine months pregnant. The superintendent had preplanned a safety walk that would be accessible to me, and I can remember being so appreciative of his efforts. Our industry is starting to understand and improve conditions for women on our sites – which is  needed to retain women through all phases of life and career.

Have you experienced male allyship in your career? Tell us about that.

Megan: Yes, definitely. The male allyship I have experienced in my career is certainly not limited to this, but the most prominent and influential example for me has been the male superintendents that I have worked with at Opus. It is one thing to have credibility on the project management/office side of our construction business, but what these gentlemen did for me is establish credibility with the field personnel. They would ask for my opinion in meetings and encourage my participation in field decisions. Some of those individuals include Al Budenski, John Kayser, Tim Schmidtke, Brian Eckart and Mike Zick. I am very thankful for them!

Jaiden: My Opus team has definitely had my back from day one. Even when I was an intern, my superintendents made sure I had everything I needed, and that I always felt confident and safe. There have been times when one of my project managers or superintendents made a phone call after I wasn't getting anywhere with a subcontractor and made sure I didn't have that issue again. My project managers always encourage me to take on tough conversations with trade partners and scopes that I still need to learn. My superintendents don't hesitate to make it clear during subcontractor meetings that I am a key part of the team and am not afraid to push activities onsite. Even my subcontractor foreman doesn't hesitate to stop and answer any questions I have related to their scopes. The construction industry is very welcoming overall. I have loved working with every project team I've been a part of.

Beth: I can't help but notice that so many advocacy examples come from our field team, and I think this is incredibly meaningful. 26 years ago, no one was referring to it as advocacy. At the time, I just thought of it as good teamwork and leadership. I never doubted that my team had my back. My team and managers ensured that I had opportunities and that my credibility was understood. I've had an all-star list of managers – Oscar Healy, John Williams and Tom Becker – and I have always been confident that my boss was speaking up for me in the rooms and at the tables where I was not yet invited.

Retention rates for women in construction are low. What keeps you in the industry? What do you think the industry needs to do to increase retention of women?

Megan: What first and foremost keeps me in the construction industry is simple – I love it.

Beth: Yes – it grabs you and does not let go!

Megan: I find it so satisfying to see a project come to life and to have such a tangible reminder of my hard work. Increasing the retention of women in the industry requires creating safe spaces for them. That requires diligence from all genders to be on the lookout for biased behavior (both conscious and unconscious), having the courage to call it out and adequately addressing it.

Jaiden: I love being able to be myself at work, and I think that is my biggest reason for coming back every day. The fact that I am allowed to be sassy and loud and detail oriented is great, and the fact that my team often encourages it to get the job done is even better. As far as what the industry needs, I think the infrastructure of this industry was built for men, so each project team needs to keep that in mind when they do have women on their team. Little things like having a designated bathroom (or locked porta-potty), understanding that a woman might not feel safe on a jobsite alone when it's dark out (Megan: or on the weekend) when creating coverage schedules and being respectful of different perspectives on a conversation or task are all important.

Beth: Construction is an incredibly rewarding career. I love the work and I love the people! Megan's comments are spot-on; I can't say it any better and won't try. 

Megan: I will add that I've been extremely fortunate to have Beth as a mentor. It's so valuable to have her as a resource and sounding board during my career, especially when I'm struggling. Her validation of my experience as a woman in construction has been priceless. Hopefully I can provide that to others someday!

What advice do you have for women considering a career in construction?

Megan:  We certainly need more women in construction! I would encourage them not to be intimidated by the low percentage of women in the industry (easier said than done, certainly) and to identify mentors and advocates early – male and female.

Jaiden: Embrace who you are and focus on what you enjoy doing. Oftentimes, you can find your niche in the industry just by doing that.

Beth: My advice for women considering construction is to follow your aspirations and find a company that supports your success. The industry needs you!