We’re proud to be female-owned and led. A decade ago, WMG’s founder, Lauren Weinbaum, sought to create a leading owner’s representation and construction management firm known for its diverse team of experienced professionals and superior client experience. Now, our team of 12, which includes five talented women, is continuously growing and evolving as we seek to break barriers and eliminate gender bias in the construction industry.
By including more women in the hiring process, connecting with students in local middle and high schools STEM programs and encouraging involvement in local mentorship and professional groups like Women in Construction Operations (WiOPS), we hope to become role models for other women in the field and highlight the value of construction career paths for women and young girls.
In honor of Women in Construction Week (March 5-11), we’re celebrating the Wonder Women of WMG. Continue reading to learn more about Crystar Martinek, Kara Camper, Nohemi Viscarra, Nicole Mclaughlin and Lauren Weinbaum - five women whose skills, knowledge and expertise enable us to be the go-to firm for owners, developers and builders of commercial construction projects and help them achieve their goals.
Tell us about your background and role at WMG.
Lauren Weinbaum: I founded WMG 10 years ago, and I serve as the firm’s president. In my role, I oversee all day-to-day operations, as well as future business development pursuits. I studied civil engineering in undergrad and subsequently earned a dual master’s degree in business and engineering. My educational background, along with on-the-job experience, has made me more well-rounded.
At the time of WMG’s founding, I was the sole employee working hard for our first client, Westfield (now Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield), the creator and operator of unique sustainability-driven retail, office and lifestyle destinations. Since that time, we have grown slowly with a focus on hiring experienced, talented professionals.
Kara Camper: I serve as the controller and manage the back-office functions that help keep the wheels turning. I also handle human resources, which includes new hires, employee benefits, and safety. I joined WMG in September 2021 after spending over 20 years as a controller in the downstream lubricant market. I’m currently pursuing my MBA from the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign and look forward to graduating at the end of this year.
Crystar Martinek: I joined WMG as a project engineer for the Qantas Aircraft Maintenance Hangar project at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) almost eight years ago. Since then, I have been fortunate to be part of multiple projects at the airport and with Metro Los Angeles in various roles. Currently, I serve as permit manager for HP’s Delta Sky Way project.
Nicole Mclaughlin: Prior to working at WMG, I served in the United States Navy for six years while simultaneously working toward my bachelor’s degree using my naval training for credits. After leaving the Navy, I worked at Lutron Electronics for approximately three years. In September 2021, I joined WMG as a permit manager and transitioned to project engineer in February 2022 on the LAX TBIT project under Austin Commercial, the project’s general contractor.
Nohemi Viscarra: Fifteen years ago, I started my career in the construction industry as a field office manager for a general contractor. I served in this role for three years, and with the help of wonderful mentors, transitioned to a project management track. I began as a project coordinator, and in 2019, I joined WMG as a permit project manager. Currently, I’m working on the LAX Terminal Cores project and assisting with other special assignments.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Kara Camper: When I was younger, I wanted to be an astronomer. I loved looking at the night sky and wondering if all those lights were real. I pursued the astronomer route until I ran into physics, which turned out to be a little over my head (pun intended).
Crystar Martinek: Until third grade, I wanted to be a lawyer. As I got involved with different programs at school, I really gravitated towards the sciences and loved being a part of the Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement (M.E.S.A.) program. My interest shifted to engineering at that point.
Only 9% of U.S. construction workers are women. What’s been your experience working as a woman in a male-dominated industry?
Kara Camper: The lack of women in construction deprives the industry of alternate points of view when problem solving, addressing issues, and formulating strategies. The standard way of resolving issues could benefit from women's experiences. Trying to bring these different thought processes to our industry has been challenging and rewarding. As Bill Walsh said, "If we're all thinking alike, nobody's thinking.”
Lauren Weinbaum: This is a very difficult question to answer. For the most part, men have supported me and helped me develop in my career, but I would be dishonest to say that I haven’t been subject to bias, discrimination and other forms of harassment. Luckily, I was able to navigate those situations well and move forward to brighter days ahead.
What’s one lesson you’ve learned during your time with WMG?
Kara Camper: Relationships are critical - not only in your private life, but at work as well. The relationships you build with colleagues should be valued and treated with respect. Don’t look at others thinking, “What can I extract out of them?” Instead, think about how your shared goals can help each
other through a project or deadline. A robust, healthy network of colleagues will pay dividends through the years.
Nohemi Viscarra: Take ownership of the good and the bad. Receiving recognition for exceptional work is great, but when something goes awry, you also need to accept and resolve it. There was an instance when a client was in the wrong and the owner was livid, so I quickly validated the owner’s concern and offered a possible resolution. I instantly saw a change in the owner’s tone and the confrontational attitude subsided as we discussed options to resolve the issue.
What would your advice be to a woman who is interested in joining the construction industry?
Lauren Weinbaum: My advice is to get the best grades in math and science you can and pursue a degree in engineering despite the fact many construction management programs are fantastic. In the long run, I believe construction companies will start hiring licensed engineers as part of their overall team in response to the significant industry trend for design build.
Nohemi Viscarra: Do it! Invest in a good pair of work boots and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Why should a woman consider a job in the construction field?
Crystar Martinek: Construction is fun, interesting, and ever-changing. There are numerous avenues for growth, amongst a wide variety of project types, locations, and roles. Construction is always in demand and cannot be outsourced.
Nicole Mclaughlin: The construction field will always endure the ebbs and flows of the economy. Individual projects may be placed on hold, but others will always emerge. It is a lucrative field with an arguably low barrier to entry for eager workers willing to learn.
How can other people and companies support women in the industry?
Crystar Martinek: Providing continuing education and workshops focused on diversity and inclusion practices and engaging in mentorships for women entering the field are very important. WMG has always supported me as a mother. I’ve experienced firsthand the benefit of working for a company that supports women in that way, whether through maternity leave or the flexibility to tend to a sick child. High levels of support and flexibility are critical components of job satisfaction and retention.
Lauren Weinbuam: Do not assume based on gender, age, or race that a person isn’t capable of reaching his or her full potential. When I was pregnant, I worked until my due dates. During those seasons, trade workers, management staff and other high-level executives tried to stop me from ‘climbing the ladder’ or doing things that were necessary to complete my job as a project manager. It wasn’t their position to determine what I could or could not do. We need to be sensitive and supportive to all employees as they move through various stages of their lives. I have seen women exit the construction industry after they start families due to the discomfort created from others assuming they can’t reach their full potential.
My husband and I tell our children if there’s an emergency and we are not available to help, they can ask someone’s mom for help because they’ll know exactly what to do. Moms are extraordinary like that. The construction industry is all about crisis management and knowing who to ask for help. We shouldn’t assume a woman cannot provide the same level of expertise as a man just because she recently had a baby.
Founded and led by a woman, and as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE), how does WMG empower team members to reach their full potential regardless of gender, age, race, etc.?
Kara Camper: Psychological safety is critical to an organization’s success. Having the belief that you won’t be humiliated or punished for sharing ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes allows team members to feel respected, valued and heard. I believe being led by a woman helps create a safe environment at WMG because making connections, listening, and collaborating are highly valued.
Crystar Martinek: Lauren has always supported me and given me the freedom to learn on the job. She encourages growth, provides mentorship and is always available for questions or issues that arise. The WMG team trusts me to operate autonomously and requests my input and opinions on certain business matters, which is very empowering. I know WMG’s leadership is genuinely happy to see the company’s employees grow and flourish.
What’s your superpower?
Kara Camper: I have total recall. I am not kidding. Ask me when something happened and I can tell you when, where, what the weather was, who was wearing what, conversation topics, you name it. This comes in handy when I can't access my calendar, but not always the best during disagreements with my partner!
Nicole Mclaughlin: My superpower is currently under development. Please ask me in five to 10 years, ha! All jokes aside, my persistence in hunting down answers and ability to adapt to various situations are my superpowers.
What woman in your life do you most admire?
Crystar Martinek: I admire my mother. A refugee from Cambodia, my mother came to America in her early twenties. Despite extremely difficult circumstances, she persevered and pursued a career in the nursing field. She was a great mom to my sister and me. She instilled respect, dedication and perseverance in both of us, and I would not be the woman I am today without her.
Nicole Mclaughlin: My mother is my hero. She recently retired from working 20+ years at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) as an electrical mechanic. She showed me women can be strong, independent and assertive and gain the respect of all coworkers - male and female alike.
Nohemi Viscarra: I try to learn and imitate several strong female figures in my life, including my mom for being a guerrera, a warrior. She faced many remarkable adversities throughout her life, but remained strong and resilient through each of them. She guarded me from negativity and prepared me for life. I also admire my mother-in-law for being a super mom. Her dedication and devotion to her family is beautiful, and to top it off, she’s a phenomenal cook. And, of course, our very own Lauren Weinbaum. She’s sharp, has grit and is hilarious to boot. I applaud her success and leadership and aspire to be equally as bold and industrious