Aurora land developer among few women in construction industry

Mar 30, 2023

Just 10 minutes from Denver International Airport, a new community in Aurora is in the works. Nearly 13,000 homes — including apartments and single-family houses — are planned for The Aurora Highlands (TAH).

“Right now, they’re working on getting their utilities hooked up,” Carla Ferreira said of the construction site.

Not only is Ferreira one of The Aurora Highland’s first residents, she’s the lead developer.

“I grew up on construction sites,” she told CBS News Colorado’s Kelly Werthmann.

Following in her dad’s footsteps, Ferreira left the art industry and opted for a career in land development and construction. And she’s among the few. As of 2022, women make up less than 11% of the industry’s workforce nationwide.

“There’s not a lot of women that do real estate development. I’m kind of the only one,” Ferreira said.

Breaking into the business has been a bit of a bumpy road for the 33-year-old.

“Just being a woman in a man’s role has been difficult,” she said. “I’ve been in meetings when there’d be men at the table who wouldn’t talk to me, want to know where my dad was and were insulted I was there instead of him. I thought, ‘How can I show up and prove to our clients and to our neighbors that I belong and I know what I’m doing?'”

For a while, Ferreira thought she had to blend in so she could fit in.

“I used to try to hide my femininity and thought it would be easier for the guys to accept me if I was just in a black suit and white shirt and was just quiet,” Ferreira said.

But with her dad’s encouragement to keep going, Ferreira realized she is at her best when she is herself  — in high heels and vibrant colors.

“I am definitely the pink power suit girl,” she said with a smile.

At the TAH project site, there are expected sights like large mounds of dirt and men operating heavy equipment. Perhaps unexpected are some workers in pink hard hats — just another way Ferreira is leaving her mark.

“You can take this hard hat with you and not hide that you’re a woman walking around the job site,” she explained of the bright headwear.

Ferreira said at least seven women homebuilders are involved with TAH, and she wants more women to join the always growing construction and development industry.

“This is a really fun field. It pays really well, and I would just love to see more women come and be craftsmen and carpenters, designers and land planners,” she said.

The Aurora Highlands has a long way to go; it’s just about 10% completed right now. Ferreira plans to be there every step of the way, standing out and inviting new homeowners in.

“The Aurora Highlands is really bringing something for everybody,” she said. “It’s really been a labor of love.”

View on CBS Online.