Women Occupy All Lead Positions on BlackLine Tenant Improvement Project

The Blackline TI project may be the first all-female construction project in the history of the AEC industry.

May 3, 2022

Core Values

Walking onto Webcor’s BlackLine tenant improvement job site in Pleasanton, CA, you would never guess that women constitute a mere 10.9 percent of the entire U.S. construction workforce. In fact, you’d likely assume that construction is actually a female-dominated industry. The BlackLine TI project may be the first all-female construction project in the history of the AEC industry.

The all-woman team was not assembled intentionally. "It happened organically," says Project Manager Shevelle Baunach, a JLL project manager who represents software company BlackLine, the client that will move into the fifth floor of this 40-plus-year-old building. "Hiring an all-woman team was not a specific ask from BlackLine, but they did initiate a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) focus at the beginning of the project."

About 20 women have roles on the project representing Webcor (including Webcor Drywall and Webcor Carpentry), JLL, millwork subcontractor Crestmark, Quezada Architecture (a women- and minority-owned company), Monticelli Painting, and two subcontractors for furniture, fixtures, and equipment: Inside Source and The Collective.

Every lead position on the team is occupied by a woman. “After years of being on predominantly male-driven project teams, it was really moving to find myself surrounded by a team of highly skilled women, in leading roles that are too often dominated by males,” Shevelle says. “I'm so proud to be a part of this type of tangible progress in our industry, and it gives me hope that we're building toward a future where this is the new normal!”

Among the team leaders is Webcor Superintendent Maria Damas, who sees clear advantages to an all-woman team. "Women bring different types of qualities to anything we do," she says. "We tend to be multitaskers by nature, so we're able to handle multiple things at the same time."

Top from L-R: Shevelle Baunach, Laura Wall, Maria Damas, Verna Kageman; bottom from L-R: Mimi Taylor, Eileen Deasy, Julia Campbell, Jill Benitez


The Female Difference 

A visit to the 18,454-rentable-SF project finds Webcor's core values on full display. The workspace is spacious, allowing for room between operations while still creating a cohesive One Webcor community and reinforcing safety and security. "It's a comfortable workspace with this team of women working to keep everyone involved," Maria says. "It's easier to express ourselves."

That has helped with challenges the team has faced on the project, including timely permit approvals and supply chain issues. "Gender hasn't played a part in resolving these issues since they're basically out of our control," Maria explains. "But what I have noticed is that, perhaps, because the lead roles are done by females, we tend to be detail-oriented. A lot gets covered in our weekly project walks." 

Other challenges have included everything from pricing changes to labor shortages, according to Ray Montalvo, BlackLine's Vice President of Real Estate and Workplace. "This project has definitely put everyone on the team to the task," he says. "Everyone in the room is making it happen."

Women in construction tend to be super hard-working by nature, Maria says, to better understand the topics they are expected to know in this traditionally male-dominated industry. "So, when you get more females than you would on your average project team, it's bound to be an awesome team. We all have different experiences and backgrounds we bring to the table. And, let's be honest – men and women experience the world around us differently."


Valuable Perspectives

 The project site is also the cleanest Rob Volpentest, Webcor’s vice president of Tenant Improvement, has ever seen. "In a tight space like that, when it's clean, everyone works harder to keep it clean," Rob says. "That helps make it safer. It also helps with productivity, since the trades have nothing in their way." 

The perspectives women bring to a project impress Rob the most. He notes that his sister worked in construction and rose to the level of project manager. "The presence of women in this industry has made it more grown-up," he says. "When I came into the industry, it was dominated by men. It's great to see the industry mature as more and more women join. I can't wait until we've achieved equity and work in an industry that’s represented by men and women equally."

While assembling an all-female team was not a BlackLine goal, the initial D&I focus enabled JLL and Quezada Architecture to tip the scale, Ray says. The search for a builder started with identifying the top professionals with solid experience, Ray recalls, but BlackLine also looks carefully at D&I credentials. It was only after the project was underway, though, that Shevelle pointed out to him that something interesting was happening.

"When I sat back and thought about it, I realized what a great achievement we've already had on this project, and it's not even finished yet," he says. "It makes me so proud to be part of BlackLine– not because we're directly responsible for the individuals on the project leadership team who navigated their careers to get to this point, but because our focus on D&I and our project enabled this to happen.

"I can't be anything but excited about the team and the project," he adds, noting that he shared the achievement with BlackLine leaders. "I told them that there will be a day when an all-female construction project team is no longer an exception, no longer an oddity.Everyone here is proud to be part of the beginning of the end of this being an exception." 

JLL Managing Director Julie Hyson echoes Ray’s sentiment. “I hope this inspires our clients and industry partners to follow suit with a similar focus on inclusion. If you intentionally build diverse teams and invest in inclusivity, you'll be surprised by the benefits in retention, growth, creativity, and innovation.”


High Trust Levels

The trust built by the team has been palpable, Rob says, recounting a story Maria told during an executive safety walk that Webcor CEO Jes Pedersen led. Someone on the project had made a mistake, and Maria told the assembled team that she wanted to talk to whoever had been responsible."She had built so much trust that the responsible party came to her privately and admitted it,” Rob says. “And Maria wasn’t looking to place blame. She just wanted to make sure this person followed the safety rules from now onto keep everyone safe.”

As for Maria, her primary goal is to work on great projects regardless of the gender mix, but she would be thrilled to see more female-led projects. “Just having more women in construction has the potential to expand the number of women interested in this work,” she says.

Work on the project is expected to wrap up later this summer.


The Team


·     Maria Damas, Superintendent

·     Eileen Deasy, Project Engineer

·     Carolin Klooth, Senior Project Manager, Webcor Carpentry

·     Kerriann McDermott, VP, Webcor Carpentry

·     Allison McCue, Sr. Project Director, Webcor Drywall

·     Candace Rosales, Project Accountant

·     Sharon Chandra, HR Specialist

·     Kavita Kamarkar – Sustainability Support



·     Shevelle Baunach, Project Manager

·     Katy Teurn, Associate Project manager

·     Hrisa Gatzoulis, Senior Project Manager (energy & sustainability services)

·     Lauren Campfield, Project Manager (energy & sustainability services)

·     Michelle Olmstead, Senior Vice President



·     Verna Kageman, CTO/EA


Embarcadero Realty Services

·     Jill Benitez, Director of Property Operations


Quezada Architecture (WBE/MBE)

·     Mimi Taylor, Project Manager

·     Julia Campbell, Partner, and Lead Architect

·     Chelsea Cordero, Senior Designer

·     Laura Wall, Interior Designer

·     Sabrina Quinonez, Interior Designer


Crestmark Millwork

·     Leslie Douglas, Sr. Estimator


Monticelli Painting

·     Genelle Volhontseff, COO


Inside Source (Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment)

·     Robin Sedor, Account Manager


The Collective (Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment)

·     April Andrea, Regional VP