Women in Construction Week Spotlight: Theresa Lehman
Posted on Mar 8, 2022 by Miron Construction
As part of Women in Construction Week 2022, we’re highlighting the women of Miron Construction – their backgrounds, what got them into construction, and what both rewards and challenges them. We hope these features inform and inspire you!
- What made you interested in a career in construction? I have always been interested in the design and construction of buildings as long as I can remember. When I was four my parents built their house that they still live in, and to keep me occupied, my dad let me build a Barbie house. Throughout my childhood I renovated several Barbie houses, and I guess that is what got me started. Throughout middle school and high school, I took as many design and construction technical education classes that were offered. While I was in high school, Miron did a large renovation and addition to my high school for two years. I watched the construction happen throughout the duration and really was inspired to be in the industry. At the end of my senior year in high school, I shadowed Karen Newhouse, who is now Miron’s director of lean construction, and by the end of the day I knew I wanted to be in construction rather than design. I went to MSOE and was of the first graduates of their construction management program.
- What are some challenges you face in your role as a woman in construction? After graduating from college, I entered the field as a cost engineer and then a junior project manager. Only two years into my career, I was one of the first people in Wisconsin to go to the lean construction institute and apply lean construction practices to a Wisconsin project. I was one of the first in Wisconsin to earn my LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) AP. I worked on Wisconsin’s first LEED project – the DNR Northeast Regional Headquarters in Green Bay and completed the LEED certification of the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, which was one of the first carbon-positive/LEED Platinum projects in the world. I honestly don’t think being a woman on the cutting edge of sustainability was a challenge. What was a challenge was being the first to do things that had never been done before. Throughout my entire career, the constant challenge has been educating people on LEED, getting them to understand the benefits of sustainability, and proving that sustainability can be integrated into the design and construction of buildings in a cost-effective, practical way. When the project is delivered properly, sustainability doesn’t cost more, which is counter to what most perceive.
- Why is it important for women to get involved in construction? I truly believe that every person – man or women – should select a career they are passionate about and look forward to doing. I really do believe that construction – creating healthy, high-performing spaces – gives me the opportunity to make a positive difference for someone every day. Buildings are what I am passionate about. The construction industry has many great careers, such as carpenters, equipment operators, design and construction management positions, accounting, IT, HR, and alike.
- Did you have a female mentor, or are you a mentor to another female? If so, why are those experiences so valuable? Relationships are one of the most important things in life. My “why” is about making a difference, and if I can help a woman figure out if the design/construction is the right industry for her, I am happy to do that. I also believe in paying it forward. I mentor college students, as well as young professionals. What I have learned as I have had the pleasure of getting to know so many incredible women, is that I have as much to learn from them as they do from me. Many of these women have become personal friends.
- What advice would you give to other young women who are interested in construction as a career? If you are passionate about a career in the design/construction industry, don’t let anything stop you from achieving your goals and dreams. If there is anything I can do to help make that happen, I am happy to do that.
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