Women in Construction Spotlight: Clara de Lara

Clara De Lara has grown from a construction novice in a project support role to a highly knowledgeable safety leader managing safety initiatives and processes.

March 9, 2023

Employee Spotlight

Sunday, March 5 kicked off the first day of 2023's Women in Construction Week--a week dedicated to celebrating women as indispensable members of the construction industry. Monday through Friday, we’ll be highlighting the experiences, challenges, and accomplishments of five outstanding women from various Webcor teams.

When Regional Safety Manager Clara de Lara joined Webcor nearly a decade ago, she wasn’t sure what she was getting herself into—just that she needed to work after being laid off by her former employer. She’d discovered Webcor, where one of her friends happened to work at the time, months earlier while researching jobs online and decided to apply for the open project assistant (now referred to as a project coordinator) position as her friend’s referral. On March 22, 2014, Clara began her first day with Webcor Concrete in the Bay Area.

Over the last nine years, Clara’s grown from a construction novice in a project support role to a highly knowledgeable safety leader managing safety initiatives and processes on one of our largest, most complex projects—UCSF New Hospital Parnassus Heights (NHPH)—and UCSF HSIR Seismic.

“I love the opportunity my role in Safety provides to not only build relationships with our office and field staff, but bridge the gap between the two,” Clara says. “I love being able to work with both sides of the team and earn their trust to perform my job effectively.”

Clara’s transition to the Safety world began about a year after she’d joined Webcor. She decided to take advantage of a unique opportunity to move to LA for a new project—a move that would be a major turning point in her career. Upon her arrival to her new project site, she was assigned to a shared office with Sr. Safety Manager Mike Hernandez, who took her on a site tour while explaining his roles and responsibilities on the project as a safety leader. It was her first exposure to a career path in construction she’d never before considered. Immediately, she was intrigued.

Clara wasted no time demonstrating her passion and initiative for transitioning to Safety—she asked all the questions she could, enrolled in classes, and earned relevant certifications, determined to prove to Vice President Jack Harrington (her director at the time) that she’d found her niche. Sure enough, Jack agreed to work with her on mapping out a transition plan, and she was transferred to Safety shortly afterward.

While Clara was thrilled to know her efforts had paid off, she knew she’d continue to face certain challenges inherent with being a woman in construction, regardless of switching departments.

“Constantly having to prove myself in this industry has always been a challenge,” she says. “I learned early on that people were treating me differently—maybe because I’m a woman, maybe because I lacked a background in the trades, maybe because I haven’t been in the construction industry long enough… I really don’t have the answer. However, I’ve learned to take the challenges at face value and simply allow my performance to speak for itself. You can’t please everyone; someone will always have something to say. If someone has a critique to share, you just have to take it into consideration and move on. I’ve learned to combat any self-doubt fueled by others’ criticism by trusting in my skills and developing expertise.”

That expertise has grown substantially since joining the Safety team in 2015. In  addition to her rapid career growth within the department over the last eight years, Clara has earned a Construction Health and Safety Technician certificate (CHST) and expects to graduate with her master’s in environmental health and safety in June. After that, she plans to work toward her Certified Safety Professional (CSP) certificate. She’s made exemplary progress, but her proudest accomplishment is the genuine confidence she’s built after years spent shadowed by uncertainty.

“Overcoming the initial insecurities that emerged after transitioning to the Safety department was no easy feat,” Clara says. “I was timid and unsure of what lay ahead. However, I decided to treat it as if I were starting a whole new career… which I technically was. With the experience and knowledge that I’ve acquired over the years, I’ve developed an unwavering level of self-confidence regarding my role and tackle challenges by utilizing all my available resources and communicating with my team.”

Her teammates and colleagues have continued to be one of the most rewarding parts of her Webcor experience—especially the women, including those she’s met at external industry events.

“I’ve shared countless insightful conversations with women in construction regarding their career paths and the slow but steady changes they’re seeing in the industry for ‘us,’” Clara says. “They always point out that ‘we’ can do this, as women in a male-dominated industry.”

That message was powerfully delivered in the “Dream Crazier” Nike video played during last year’s Groundbreaking Women in Construction conference, she shares. The video, narrated by tennis champion Serena Williams, features several highly accomplished female athletes and coaches breaking barriers in sports—another world commanded by men.

“Since the conference, I’ve saved this video and find myself watching when I need some extra motivation,” she says. “The message applies not just to female athletes, but to anyone who’s faced the challenge of breaking barriers in their industry.”