FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida, March 30th, 2023
The Top 20 Women in Construction award recognizes and celebrates the outstanding achievements of women in the construction sector; highlighting their leadership, innovation, and commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion.
The construction industry has traditionally been male dominated, with women facing barriers in career progression and underrepresentation in leadership roles. SunRay Construction Solutions recognizes the importance of breaking down these barriers and making female role models more visible and accessible. Being the first woman-led Construction document service in the United States, SunRay Construction Solution’s founder Ariela Wagner is a proven leader and a mentor for many women. Ariela supports, encourages, and recognizes hardworking women and their remarkable contributions to the construction industry. Per Ariela, “If it weren’t for all the women who helped me, I wouldn’t be where I am today!”
"We are thrilled to recognize these exceptional women in construction and the impact they have had on the industry," said Ariela Wagner, Founder and President of SunRay Construction Solutions. "Their achievements are a testament to the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and we are proud to celebrate their success."
The Top 20 Women in Construction were selected based on their outstanding industry accomplishments and commitment to promoting diversity, leadership, inclusion, and inspiring others. The awardees come from various roles in the construction sector.
Here are the winners of the Top 20 Women in Construction Awards:
Claudia Navas -
Aside from being an amazing human being and great leader, Claudia is such a pleasant woman to be around. She is very supportive and likes to guide and teach through every process. She has overseen Navas Multiservices operations and finances for the past 17 years and has accomplished tremendous business growth. With only little to no experience when Claudia first began her career, she has grown to become a woman who is a leader in our industry. Her leadership inspires the younger generations and collectively we look forward to learning from her every day and we continue to recognize her hard work.
Claudia’s favorite quote: “If you believe in yourself, have dedication and never quit, you'll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.” - Bear Bryant
Marianthe Saavedra -
Prior to entering the construction world, Marianthe worked in Social Services. Marianthe has been in the construction field for 6 years managing the Florida division for Nichols Contracting Inc. office. She is the most organized, understanding and down to earth leader. She is best known for her problem-solving skills and her expertise in permitting throughout the entire state of Florida. Marianthe has the know-how and the grace to pull off what is needed for each project and is most valued at our company.
Marianthe’s favorite quote: “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” - Mark Twain
Shannon Roganovic -
Shannon grew up in a small town with two parents that were not afraid of hard work & breaking boundaries. Her work ethic is the driving force behind what she does at MP360 Design & Build. She believes that trust & doing the right thing inevitably leads to positive outcomes.
Whether diving into a development project or helping to create a high-end custom home for a client, Shannon and the MP360 Team strive for an experience where clients feel valued. Shannon’s background with several fortune 500 companies in sales, finance, supply chain management, and marketing coupled with her real estate & development experience in Real Estate banking, procurement & contract negotiations has enabled her to navigate & build strong teams throughout the industry.
Shannon’s favorite quote: “I can accept failure; everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying.” - Michael Jordan
Lorena Vargas Schultz -
Lorena Vargas Schultz is a licensed Roofing Contractor in Fort Myers, FL. She's in her fifth year of business as owner of International Roofing, specializing in Metal and Composite roofing systems. She collaborates with her father and co-founder, Marcelino, to bring old school roofing to the next level. By incorporating technology, education, and high-quality work, she has been able to make an impact in the industry. Lorena is a musician at heart, with a B.A. in Vocal Performance, and brings that passionate personality to the heart of International Roofing. She strives to build personal relationships with every person who trusts her and her family with their homes.
Lorena’s favorite quote: “In times of transition and uncertainty thinking and introspection should follow action and experimentation - not vice versa.”
Angie Ripley -
Angie has been a pillar of the Kansas City real estate community for several years. Her willingness to learn, listen and work together with other real estate leaders has brought her to her most recent appointment as the Chair of the Kansas City Home Builder’s Association Professional Women in Building Council Chairwoman. In this role she led the council to new heights in membership numbers and brought professional development education to the members of the council. She has proven her dedication to serve the women in our industry through her leadership and commitment to the PWB community.
Angie’s favorite quote: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal... it is the courage to continue that counts.” -Winston Churchill
Ashley Klein -
For nearly 10 years, Ashley has grown AK Glazing from a small window installer to a local glazing powerhouse. Ashley works on the tallest towers for the biggest contractors doing the most complex work. Ashley is not a paper-pusher; she is quite the opposite. She is in the field motivating her team of installers to achieve on time and on budget projects. Ashley is an active member of the National Glass Association and the National Association of Women in Construction. Ashley contributes to a variety of organizations such as Women Empowering Women in Development, Autism Speaks, Construction Angles Inc., American Heart, Breast and Cancer Associations, American Red Cross, David Posnack Jewish Community Center, and The Caring Place of Florida.
Ashley’s favorite quote: “Good work takes hard work, and great work takes passion, pride, persistence and the personal pursuit to keep building. The road to success is always under construction so lead, follow, or get out of the way.” - Ashley Klein
Yvette Aubin -
Yvette has been in the construction accounting industry for over 20 years. Prior to joining Ebsary Foundation Company, Yvette served as an auditor for private and public sector entities involving construction projects. She has been with the Ebsary Foundation for more than 15 years, starting as the controller and now the CFO. With an accounting degree and a CPA license, she keeps Ebsary on their continued growth path forward. Yvette also is the chairwoman of the CFMA Miami chapter, promoting it as a way for others to get involved in construction accounting.
Yvette’s favorite quote: “To find yourself, think for yourself.” - Socrates
Lucia Soria -
Lucia spent 14 years teaching elementary school in South Miami prior to entering the construction industry. Construction eventually found Lucia. Long gone were her teaching days, as she has spent the last 22 years working in the construction industry leading Ram-Tech Construction. Lucia has grown Ram-Tech Construction to a large, family run site work, underground and utilities contractor based in Homestead, Florida. One of Lucia’s favorite projects was with the Miami World Center in downtown Miami, Florida. Lucia not only leads Ram-Tech, but she is also a wife, mother, and grandmother. Lucia is a community advocate and spends time on several boards including the South Dade Chamber of Commerce in an effort to grow the influence and prosperity of South Florida. Lucia believes we must give back and pay it forward.
As a former educator, I understand we will always continue to learn. If we take what we learn and share with others for their professional and/or personal development, we can be a leader that has a positive impact on the individual’s journey.
Lucia’s favorite quote: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy.
Lindsey Griffin -
Lindsey has made sure our projects are on time and seamless from start to finish. She is always available when our team needs her. She is our “go-to” and we can always rely on her. Our projects run smoothly because of her. In addition to being in the office Monday-Friday, Lindsey works on holidays and weekends to ensure our projects are delivered on time. No matter what time or day, I know when I call, I can count on Lindsey to answer. Lindsey graduated from FSU with her engineering degree and is currently working on the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida and the Alta Equipment rental and sales facility in Midway, Florida.
Lindsey’s favorite quote: “Don't let fear stop you. Don't give up because you are paralyzed by insecurity or overwhelmed by the odds, because in giving up, you give up hope. Understand that failure is a process in life, that only in trying can you enrich yourself and have the possibility of moving forward. The greatest obstacle in life is fear and giving up because of it.” - Sonia Sotomayor
LJ Shaw -
LJ Shaw is CEO of Tampa Contractor Group, a woman-owned and operated construction company. TCG has been in business for 11 years. Tampa Contractor Group is a licensed General Contracting and Roofing company, specializing in high-end luxury remodels. LJ leads her team with bold faith and fearless decision making, transforming outdated spaces into something beautiful. Her faith and family are the foundation of all she does, inspiring everyone who crosses her path. LJ is a single mother of two boys, Host Family for Better Together, and Founder/CEO of Phoenix Women’s Ministries. Her mission isn’t just building beautiful homes, its helping people build beautiful lives.
LJ’s favorite quote: “To laugh often and much: To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Annette Nilles -
Annette Nilles, owner of Nilles Design Group, is a dedicated business owner with more than 35 years experience. Annette is one of the premier residential designers in Southwest Florida. For more than two decades, the LBIA has recognized Nilles Design Group as a leader in their field with numerous Parade of Homes™ awards for Overall Design and Pinnacle Awards for Product Design of the Year. In addition to running her business, Annette sits on the Board of the Lee Building Industry Association as well as Lee BIA Builders Care which she has volunteered with her husband for 15 years. Aside from donating countless hours to this life-changing organization, Nilles Design Group has also provided plans for over 100 Builders Care projects free of charge. She is also President of the Gulfshore Mustang Club which also raises money for charities throughout Southwest Florida.
Annette’s favorite quote: “There Are Three Types of People: Those Who Make Things Happen, Those Who Watch Things Happen, and Those Who Wonder What Happened!” - Author unknown
Dawn McCarthy -
Dawn is a small-town humble woman who has seamlessly engineered a modest family roofing business into a multimillion-dollar enterprise. She is an exemplary wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, boss, and friend who graciously puts others before herself. People are drawn to her charisma and intelligence and are consistently seeking her advice in life and business. Dawn is a savvy entrepreneur with a knack for chasing her family dreams in a fervent yet logical, responsible fashion. Although business is a driving force in her life her family always takes precedence as her highest priority.
Dawn’s favorite quote: “Settling for what is comfortable is one of the biggest enemies to our enlargement. In every season of life, we need to be committed to enlarging our personal capacity even when it is not comfortable. We need to refuse to be satisfied with our latest accomplishments, as what we've accomplished is no longer our potential because it has been realized.” - Christine Caine
Jesi Crane -
Jesi Crane is a woman who goes above and beyond in both her work and personal life. She is someone who truly wants to get to know you for you and learn more about your company in order to make that special connection. Jesi’s expertise involves financial and retirement planning and insurance protection strategies. Jesi works with many companies within the construction industry and helps her clients become confident and secure in today’s economy. Jesi is heavily involved in the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce and many other organizations and loves to give back to her community.
Jesi’s favorite quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi
Marleen Applebaum -
Marleen worked tirelessly to educate her former colleagues at Silmar on the importance of issuing Notice to Owners. With her guidance, Silmar’s job account platform grew exponentially, allowing them to work with many smaller customers on projects throughout South Florida and the Carolinas. In 2019, she made the difficult decision to leave Silmar and join her husband in the company he started called M.A. Construction Group. Marleen is an outstanding person to work with and encourages others around her with her knowledge and attitude to always do things the right way. Marleen is dedicated to her customers and always provides them with excellent service. But most of all, she has a deep love for her family.
Marleen graduated from American University in Washington, D.C. where she studied Advertising and Marketing. Her career path eventually took her to the construction industry where she successfully managed Accounts Receivables portfolios upwards of $56 million. Now at M.A. Construction Group, she brings her strong marketing and finance skills to the group with her “get it done” approach.
Marleen’s favorite quote: “Always do the right thing and be fair.”
Claudia Mendoza -
Claudia is a Florida Certified General Contractor who established I.Q. Constructions, Inc. in 2002. Not only has she broken a glass ceiling in the construction industry she continuously gives back to her community and supports women. For the past 20 years Claudia has grown, I.Q. Constructions as a woman owned Minority Certified Business which provides commercial construction services to public agencies and municipalities and private companies. Claudia is very involved in her community through local organizations and is an activist with the Latino Hispanic community. Claudia is an immigrant from Colombia, a wife and mother of two and a host of her own Spanish local radio show. She is proof that we can do anything.
Claudia’s favorite quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead
Cari Breaban -
Cari is a very bright, professional, knowledgeable, dynamic individual who has proved herself as a force in the fire protection industry. Cari has the ability to drill down any issue to the bare bones, build on that foundation to a perfect end, producing a positive result. Cari continues to grow her product knowledge every day and if she does not know the answer, she will hunt it down to provide the best service for her customer, enabling her to be leader and respected in her field. Cari has the desire the teach those that are willing to learn to become the star they can grow into.
Cari believes the keys to success are commitment, determination & tenacity.
Cari’s favorite quote: “My strength lies solely in my tenacity.” - Louis Pasteur
Dena Cordova-Jack -
Dena has been in the LBM industry for over 30 years and is an enthusiastic advocate for helping and supporting other women. She is a co-founder of the Women of Lumber and Building Materials group, which is dedicated to teaching women leadership skills and self-advocacy while building their careers, and believes that our industry can offer unparalleled career opportunities to both women and men alike. By intentionally building her own career in all facets of the LBM industry, Dena has a unique perspective and advantage to understanding the many challenges that our industry faces in an ever-changing environment. Her focus is providing science-backed solutions to help companies achieve their goals. She is known for being a passionate advocate of building people, companies, and cultures. Legislative advocacy is also a priority, and Dena has held various board positions within National Lumber and Building Materials Dealer Association in Washington, D.C., where she served as the Chair for the Federated Executive Group, as well as chair for the Federated Executive Board. She is currently serves as the Vice President and Legislative Delegate for the Mountain States Lumber Dealers Association Board of Directors.
Dena’s favorite quote: “At the end of the day, you are the only one that is limiting your ability to dream, or to actually execute on your dreams. Don’t let yourself get in the way of that.” -Falon Fatemi
Neale Montgomery -
Neale Montgomery has been selected as one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2013-2022 and is highly respected and admired in the Southwest Florida construction community. She is known for her expertise in land use and zoning and helping her client’s construction dreams turn into reality. Neale is a Florida Land Use Dispute Resolution Special Master and represents clients in administrative hearings before local and regional entities, and the Division of Administrative Hearings. Neale is very active within the SWFL community and serves on the Board of Directors for the Lee County Building Industry Association.
Neale’s favorite quote: “Work hard, play hard, and don’t sweat the petty stuff.”
Traci D. Miller -
Traci has been with Miller Construction Company since 1993 and now oversees business development and marketing, and is the Champion of Culture, maintaining and growing their company culture through team building and social events. She has worked hard to advance Miller Construction Company in its industry and community by developing business relationships with clients and industry influencers; managing community engagement and Miller’s charitable participation and donations; and oversight of brand management and public relations. Traci currently serves on the executive committee of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance Board of Directors, as Board Chair of Commercial Industrial Association of South Florida (CIASF), as Board Chair of Rebuilding Together Broward County, and on the United Way of Broward’s Women United Leadership Council.
Traci’s favorite quote: One of my favorite quotes is actually a Chinese proverb – “If you always give, you will always have.” Without using those words, my parents instilled that in me by their actions in serving their family and community with generosity of their time, talents and treasure.
Aisha Gordon -
Mayor Aisha Gordon has been a resident of Oakland Park for 18 years, after annexation in 2005. She was elected to the Oakland Park City Commission in 2020. With a combined 25-year background in business, commercial construction, community association management and property management, Aisha is currently Regional Vice President of Business Development for Facilities Maintenance & Services Group, LLC. Mayor Gordon is celebrated for her community involvement innovations and effective leadership successes from companies such as STILES (full-service commercial real estate developer) where she was employed for nearly 20 years. Mayor Gordon is a loving mom of 2 and a most nurturing grandmother of 5. She is considered a confidant to her siblings and an external parental figure and mentorship to many young people.
Aisha’s favorite quote: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Dr. Maya Angelou
The winners will be featured on the SunRay Construction Solutions website and will receive a personalized award of recognition. SunRay Construction Solutions plans to continue the Top 20 Women in Construction award each year to recognize the efforts and dedication of all women in the construction industry. SunRay Construction Solutions is committed to providing opportunities for women to succeed in their careers and supports them in achieving their full potential in the construction industry.
About SunRay Construction Solutions
SunRay Construction Solutions is one of the largest National Online Construction Document Services in the USA. SunRay secures $10 billion (about $31 per person in the US) annually for 1000s of general contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers by securing their lien and bond claim rights. SunRay has been awarded as the Top Tech Firm of 2021 and 2022 by the Construction Executive. SunRay has set itself apart as a leader and pioneer in the construction documents services landscape, despite the highly competitive nature of the industry in which it operates. In just a decade, SunRay has been recognized for contributing to the construction industry nationally while staying true to its primary goal of helping its clients get paid faster.
About Our Founder - Ariela Wagner, MBA
Ariela has always loved business. At the age of 6 she launched a thriving operation selling chocolate to her classmates. This secured around $5 in receivables a year. At the age of 26, Ariela launched a construction software business. This now secures around $10 billion receivables a year. Today, Ariela’s business is one of the largest of its kind in the country and counts some of the top national suppliers as customers. Ariela has been named in the South Florida Business Journal’s “Top-40 Under-40” young entrepreneurs, is a regular speaker at business and construction industry events and is frequently featured in the industry's leading publications. Her approach to both business and life is to never stop learning, growing and developing new skills: never stop being the best you can, and helping others to become the best version of themselves.
Outside the world of business, Ariela is a black belt in karate and teaches kids that are getting bullied. She’s also a golf champion and attends regular construction industry scrambles.
Her mantra is: “The impossible just takes longer.”