Developed by Adobe, Walton Construction, and AMJ Construction Management, Adams Terrace is an 86-unit affordable housing community for seniors and formerly homeless or at-risk homeless seniors in Los Angeles.
AMJ Construction Management Developed by Adobe, Walton Construction, and AMJ Construction Management, Adams Terrace is an 86-unit affordable housing community for seniors and formerly homeless or at-risk homeless seniors in Los Angeles.

As a mother of two at 42 years old, Lesley C. Guia set out to learn the ins and outs of the construction industry for a second career. With a heart for affordable multifamily housing, she soon found herself at the construction table as the senior project manager at AMJ Construction Management.

Based in Los Angeles, the firm specializes in project management and coordination of residential and commercial projects. Having been in the male-dominated film industry for many years, Guia was not deterred by the lack of female representation in construction. She went back to school after a six-year resume gap to pursue the industry, completing a construction management certificate program from UCLA Extension.

Lesley C. Guia
Lesley C. Guia

Believing that women have a seat at the table—especially in construction and housing—Guia shares more about her experience in the industry.

What types of projects do you currently work on?
My focus is on affordable housing projects, mostly in the city of Los Angeles. It’s where my heart is and what inspired me to pursue a new career in construction management.

Were there any women you looked up to in the industry when pursuing your role?
No, not at all. But honestly, this was never a factor in my decision to join the construction industry. It wasn’t until I worked in the field as a project engineer that I understood the on-site culture. I was the only woman, and I remember asking myself why more women don’t do this type of work.

What are some ways we could encourage more women to enter the industry or trades?
A big drive for women to enter the industry is creating a respectful and welcoming environment for women—both in the trades and leadership roles. I am fortunate to have found my construction family at AMJ Construction Management, where we believe women belong in construction and bring value to the work we do; therefore, it motivates me to grow as a professional and a lifetime learner. Jack Wickersham, principal at AMJ, has been instrumental to the growth in my career and continues to be a wonderful mentor. I aspire to pass down his knowledge to a new generation of women in construction. Mentorship and sponsorship are very important in our industry.

Why do you think is it important for women to be represented in the industry?
There has been an imbalance in the industry for so long, the time has come to elevate women both in the trades and in leadership roles. Not only do women bring different perspectives to problem-solving, but they are also strong in critical thinking and people’s skills.

How can women increase their opportunities in leadership capacities?
Spending time walking the site, learning about materials, and sequencing the trades well on the field, but one of the most important skills is understanding a construction schedule and project cost. This type of knowledge is key for moving into a leadership role.

What are some ways the industry can empower women in the trades?
One way to empower more women in the trades is increasing the scope of recruiting and more emphasis on gender equality and equal pay. Don’t be afraid of taking up space at the table in a construction meeting, lean in and ask questions. You belong there.

What are some common obstacles you've faced or you've seen other women face in the field?
I’m fortunate to work side by side with a mentor and colleagues that stand behind my work and continue to provide support, both professionally and with schedule flexibility. But women continue to face real obstacles in construction like gender-bias, exclusion, being talked over, work-life imbalance, etc.

What drives you to keep going in the industry?
My family and I migrated from Cuba to the United States when I was 10. At the time, it felt like we had left not just our country behind, but our entire life as well—a life I didn’t recognize when I visited Cuba 26 years later. This experience as a young girl taught me the importance of being comfortable with the uncomfortable, and it has been the driving force throughout my life. I don't let anyone define me based on societal, or cultural expectations or put me in a box with gender-specific roles. Women belong where their passion and mission lead us.