By Meghan Hall
Since founding Relocation Connections in 1989, Gina Carsuo has had a long and productive career in the San Francisco Bay Area’s rapidly growing construction industry, which in part, culminated when Impec Group acquired the project management consulting firm in April 2018. Now a Senior Vice President of Project Management at Impec Group, Caruso is focused on continuing the growth of Relocation Connections and Impec in the region. Just one of a few percent of women who has risen through the ranks in construction, The Registry recently caught up with Caruso to talk about her career in construction and how women can play a greater role in the industry.
Gina, tell us a little bit about your career in construction and project management; how have your prior experiences in the industry influenced the role you play as Impec Group’s Senior Vice President of Project Management?
I started in construction in 1989. I had been a Project Manager in the technology industry prior, so I understood the fundamentals of project work and applied that knowledge to the construction projects I was assigned. Since then, I have continued to gain knowledge of, and grown into, a leadership role within the industry. When the opportunity to move my previous company, Relocation Connections, into Impec Group came up, it was clearly a good fit and an opportunity for me to have stronger resources behind me to grow our Construction Management division.
Compared to many other industries, there is a dearth of women in commercial real estate, and in particular construction. What drove you to pursue a career in the field of construction?
Like many people, my career drove itself! But once I finished my first construction project, I was hooked. I love taking an empty shell and building it into something spectacular for a client. I was also drawn to the camaraderie among the architects, general contractors, furniture, AV and low voltage colleagues. The team really drives the success of the project, and in my experience, that has always been a blend of talented men and women, so I never felt out of place as a woman.
What is your understanding or perception of women in the construction industry today? Do you think the industry has improved in terms of inclusivity and diversity since you began starting Relocation Connections in 1989? Why or why not?
I know and work with a lot of terrific women in construction, so I do believe the industry has become increasingly welcoming to women. That said, the industry has a way to go for full inclusivity. Men still explain basic things to me, when I have been doing this for over thirty years. That will evolve, but not without women in the industry taking their place at the table unhesitatingly and with the full measure of their ability and the industry’s need for their expertise.
Only about seven percent of women in construction are project managers, and only five percent are top level executives. What can companies such as Impec do to further encourage women to enter — and grow — within the construction industry?
It is vital for firms to recruit and support women in the industry. At Impec Group, we are always looking for PMs who want to expand their experiences and talent by joining our group. We look to mentor and grow women and help set a path to a long career.
What barriers to entry might women face when breaking into construction?
Men in the industry are changing and more accepting, and women need to grab the baton that may not be easily passed. Women in all areas of business are stepping into traditionally male roles, and I hope to have laid some groundwork for them; and I am committed to supporting them. Still, any woman entering this business today has to be ready for the traditions, and must figure out how to just stay ahead of it.
In March, NAWIC, companies and organizations around the United States celebrated “Women in Construction Week.” Do you find that these types of events are having an impact? Why or why not?
I think anything organizations can do to encourage women to enter this field is a positive thing. There is great strength in finding and fostering other women and if we can encourage and support each other, it is that much better.
How can companies who foster an increasingly diverse and inclusive workforce benefit in the long run?
Every company can benefit from a diverse population. The way individuals – men and women – approach problem solving is critical, so I see a diverse population in construction as a benefit to everyone.
If you had one piece of advice to give to women entering the industry, what would you tell them and why?
Work hard, learn as much as you can, stay humble and stay strong, and keep up with what everyone does on the team. Respect your peers and provide leadership to the project.
Looking at your career to date, are there any accomplishments of which you are most proud? If so, which ones and why?
I have had a spectacular career. Growing Relocation Connections into the successful firm was one of my proudest accomplishments. The network of colleagues and the track record of successful projects I have been a part of is also something of which I am very proud.
Is there anything else you would like to add that The Registry did not think to ask?
This industry is exciting, challenging and rewarding, and I encourage young women to explore the opportunities Construction Management has to offer.