Construction Girl with Keller Hayes

Episode #74: Welcome to the She Builds Show, I’m your host, Stefanie Olson and this week I’m excited to introduce you to Keller Hayes, the creator of Transportation & Construction GIRL. Transportation and Construction GIRL is a pioneering effort in the transportation and construction industry to fill a void in workforce and provide sustainable careers for young women.

Ready? Listen in…



Program Director, Transportation and Construction Girl™

Keller has spent a lifetime representing, supporting and understanding women and girls. Keller holds a minor in Women’s Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Keller built the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce (CWCC) to the largest women’s chamber in the country. And, she has 15 years in the construction and transportation industry. She has consulted for the US Department of Transportation, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Utah Department of Transportation and the North Dakota Department of Transportation to provide technical assistance to women owned and minority owned companies.

In 2016, Keller looked at the representation of women in transportation and construction. She decided more needed to be done and created Transportation & Construction GIRL. Transportation and Construction GIRL is a pioneering effort in the transportation and construction industry to fill a void in workforce and provide sustainable careers for young women. This past September, Transportation & Construction GIRL Day had 1000 attendees. Six hundred girls came from 30 different schools to experience 50 interactive exhibits and make connections in this industry. One girl left saying, “Thanks for talking to us. I might want to have a job like you.”

Keller combines mentoring, shadowing days, and events to open up the transportation & construction industry to young women. One graduate said, “Your work is inspiring and has an impact on people far greater than you’ll ever know.”

Today there is not only Transportation and Construction GIRL Day, there is also a video library – Superstar Women in Transportation & Construction – of women in the industry that young GIRLS can visit and listen to over 57 women in the industry on how they got started and advice they would give. It is a 24/7 opportunity to “See it to Be it.” Several weeks in the summer, Transportation & Construction GIRL provides Career Weeks for GIRLs. Over one week, girls – ranging from 13 to 20 years old – make five stops to engage with women, ask questions and tour work sites. Each company puts together a day long insight into their company and into the industry.

Both U.S. Representative Diana DeGette and U.S. Representative Scott McInnis recognized her with a U.S. Congressional Tribute. The Tribute acknowledged: “As a result of her leadership, business women have become a more powerful force in our city and our state.” July 15, 2004 was named “Keller Hayes Day in Denver” by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. The proclamation said “Keller Hayes is a role model to other women, encouraging them to achieve more than they thought was possible.”


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0:01 Welcome to the she build show.

0:03 I’m your host, Stefanie Olson, a licensed general contractor who builds new construction renovates and designs your vision today?

0:12 More than ever we need raw, authentic women who are willing to rise above society’s norms.

0:18 Break those glass ceilings and encourage each other to boldly build the life we were meant to live.

0:24 So honey, what are you building?

0:27 All right, welcome to the she build show.

0:29 Today we have a special guest Keller Hayes, welcome to the show.

0:35 Thank you so much, Stefanie.

0:37 You’re welcome.

0:38 Okay, so can you do a little quick intro about yourself and you know, kind of what you do.

0:45 Absolutely.

0:46 So I have a couple of different industries that have crossed.

0:53 I started out my career in journalism and with a minor in women’s studies and did a lot of work in that.

1:00 And then I started coaching small business owners and construction and transportation.

1:06 So that led me to, Why do we only have at that time, 8% of the construction work forces women at the same time that the construction workforce was really hurting for people?

1:20 I’m like we could make this work for everybody.

1:22 So we started the way a foundation started a program called Transportation and construction girl.

1:27 And our goal is to how more young women find out about the careers that are available in the industry.

1:36 Amazing women like yourself in this industry and really show them this is a great career.

1:43 They can make good money and they can be in charge of their own futures.

1:47 So it’s been a real labor of love.

1:49 That’s amazing.

1:50 So how did that, I understand that it, you know, kind of evolved but was there like a pivotal moment for you that you were like this is what I want to do because I’m guessing like is it your own business or you work for another business or you do consulting?

2:04 Like what’s your core time spent on right now?

2:08 So I have my own business.

2:10 But this program I helped the Hoya Foundation create and I spend a lot of my time there as a consultant.

2:19 We really did, we had this moment where we sat down and we went, you know, a lot of people are doing college internships which are fantastic, but they’re not going to change the needle, they’re not going to encourage more women to come into this industry because they’ve already made a decision by then.

2:37 And so we started looking at younger women and we’re like, we could really make a difference here, we could really open their eyes to what’s going on here.

2:46 And quite frankly it was just sitting there and going, it’s really time that this shift is made.

2:53 I mean I did a search online to find out the different companies associations, organizations and what they high highlighted as nontraditional careers for women and I found two careers architect and engineer, which are amazing careers, but there’s thousands of careers in this industry and they just weren’t hearing about those.

3:19 I mean we sat down with one girl after we started the program and we had gone to our state Department of Transportation And she was like, Oh my God, I had no idea.

3:30 It was like a job to blow things up.

3:33 I’m like that’s called demolition or rock fall mitigation.

3:37 So yes, it is, yeah, so there’s just so many careers.

3:43 And then I also had a conversation with a carpenter and I will never forget this.

3:47 She had been in the industry for about 20 years.

3:49 So one of the few women as a carpenter when she started and she said you know what, when I got divorced, I am not gonna lie, it sucked.

3:58 She said, but I never had to worry about could I take care of my kids and when I lose my house And you know, I mean I’ve also had young girls.

4:08 I had one young girl who after going through one of our week long programs, she was just sobbing, I’m like, oh my God, you know what, what’s wrong?

4:16 How can I help?

4:17 And she said, I can’t believe it.

4:19 She said I’ve been working in a retail job, making minimum wage and I thought that’s all I ever deserved.

4:27 Oh gosh!

4:29 And she said now I know I have more possibilities.

4:33 You know if we can change that needle for young women.

4:38 Absolutely!

4:39 So tell me a little bit more specifics about the program.

4:43 So like what age does it target?

4:45 How long is it, like what kind of people are you looking for?

4:48 Because I think you should kind of like use this as an opportunity to tell more people about it.

4:53 Cause I think the problem is a lot of times women just don’t even know that there’s stuff out there to support them.

5:00 You’re absolutely right.

5:02 And I will say I’ve worked in a lot of different industries, I will say the women in this industry are so willing and able to reach back.

5:10 It’s amazing to see.

5:11 So some of the programs that we do and in terms of ages of girls we reach, let me start there because it depends on which program what age they come.

5:21 But we do one event in September that it is from 8:30 to 1:30 And we have 50 different interactive exhibits for girls to participate in.

5:33 And our youngest girl this year was six years old.

5:36 Oh, that’s awesome.

5:38 It’s so interesting to talk to like the parents after that happens, right?

5:44 So she got to come that day and got to spend time with her poppy that day.

5:50 He sent me back an email, he’s like, you know, and we had talked but she was really shy.

5:55 So she didn’t say a lot.

5:57 He was like, oh my God, she just couldn’t stop talking on the ride home and she’s been telling all of her friends about it how cool it was.

6:06 And you know, so it’s just it’s so important that girls see those kinds of opportunities in an all female gender group.

6:17 Because I can tell you one of the things we’ve found out in the years, we’ve worked on this, I doubt that your daughters this way, but most girls are terrified of heavy equipment.

6:30 I grew up on a ranch, so I was around heavy equipment all the time, but they have never been around it.

6:36 And so even on a little skid-steer girls will go, oh, I can’t do that or oh, that’s too big or oh, I might break it.

6:45 I’m like, you’re 60lbs soaking wet, this machine handle you.

6:50 And then once they get on, which they wouldn’t do if they were boys around, once they get on there like, oh my God, this is great and it’s so fun.

7:00 Yes, We had one girl who is the last girl in the group you would anticipate she’d get into the industry right?

7:08 She knew she was going to design clothes, that was her future, but she had come and participated.

7:13 And so by the end of the day she comes up to me and she’s like, oh my God, he said this was so cool and I don’t know what I’m gonna do because I won’t be able to sleep tonight because I’m gonna be dreaming of driving a skid-steer. So cool.

7:31 So where is like this event located?

7:34 Just so that people know, so this event at this time is located in Colorado.

7:41 We would love to be able to grow the program and start going across the country and we’re talking to several individuals about doing that and how many and then we also go ahead.

7:50 How many years have you guys been doing that?

7:52 We have been doing this, we did our first event 2017.

7:56 Started planning in 2016.

7:58 So Yeah, awesome.

8:00 Okay.

8:01 And then so you have to tell me about the couple other programs that you have also, we also do several weeks during the summer where girls go to five different locations and each day they get to experience a different company which is totally eye opening.

8:16 Plus can you imagine if at 13 you sat down with the general manager of a $2 billion company and he said, hey we want you in this industry and if you’re ready to work now we’ll hire you.

8:29 If you want us to pay for your education while you work, we’ll do that.

8:32 You want to just mentor a shadow.

8:33 We’re ready to do that.

8:35 I mean at 13 get out, we have several options online that people can participate in.

8:43 We have a coloring book which what we do is we take pictures of individuals in the industry and then translate those into illustrations and require that it be a picture of this industry with a woman because that’s, I couldn’t find that anywhere else.

9:00 You may see a couple.

9:02 This whole coloring book is about women in transportation and construction and it can be downloaded off of our website which is construction girl dot org.

9:12 The other thing that we do is we now have, remember I told you there were two jobs that I could find on different websites.

9:20 We have 67 different videos of women in this industry, everything from the engineering, the architect, project managers to project engineers, to heavy equipment operators, to my favorite title, the nasal ranger, what is that?

9:40 So the nasal ranger very interesting actually.

9:45 It’s an environmental position where they have to go and get training.

9:51 So they train both themselves and their nose and then they have what looks like a loud speaker that you would use omega goes over their nose and then they use the equipment and their nose to test the ground the air around a project before that project can start.

10:12 Who is that?

10:13 Like some sort of environmental.

10:15 Yeah, got it, wow, that’s so cool, interesting.

10:19 That’s amazing.

10:19 So what would you say like if you know a young girl because it sounds like you are really trying to capture the youths attention, you know, before they hit you know college and maybe later in high school and they’ve kind of had their decisions made, which I think is amazing and I would love for this podcast to reach other listeners that would like to help expand that program because I think we go, oh we have to reinvent the wheel and you guys have spent a lot of time inventing it and creating it and it would be cool to just see it scale.

10:50 But what do you think would be that you’ve seen as, because what I love is that I want you to know who they are, I want everybody to know who they are, but especially youth and like you know their personality traits and their strengths.

11:05 What do you think you’ve seen as the most, you know, widely spread like this is the personality strength or personality trait or strength that I see that attracts, you know these type of girls into the industry.

11:18 Is there something that stands out for you?

11:20 You know the whole phrase, see it to be?

11:24 It is absolutely true.

11:26 So I mean I can’t tell you how many girls go Well, I didn’t think girls could do that.

11:31 I mean and and we even when we go in and talk to a school and we’ve had, we had one teacher come up to a woman who owns her own masonry company and the teacher came up to her and said, I didn’t know women could own a construction company.

11:47 So in terms of the qualities that I see with girls, I think that what that brings to mind the most to me is that there is this huge impact for girls between middle school and high school.

12:06 Their self esteem goes down by 66%, that’s regardless of ethnic background, geographic background, economic background.

12:15 And so it’s so important that they have experiences that support them that give that opportunity, that dream that oh, you know, I could do this.

12:31 And so when you see, I mean we had one girl who is eight go and she got to participate in a flight simulator and by the time she got out she was just balancing, she was so excited.

12:45 And the instructors said to me, he said she landed the plane upside down.

12:50 I’m like, oh well you know, we knew a few crashes would happen.

12:53 He said no you don’t understand.

12:56 She landed it upside down, She did not crash.

13:00 He said, I’ve never seen that happen.

13:02 Oh my gosh, wow!

13:04 Yeah.

13:05 And she was so excited, I’m like, if you build that kind of excitement when they’re young and those kinds of possibilities, then she’s not gonna sit in the back of the room and go, oh I couldn’t do that.

13:17 The other thing that happens with girls in high school is that we annoyingly wannabe right?

13:24 No surprise, right?

13:26 It’s like if I’m gonna answer that question, I’m gonna be right.

13:30 So it’s not, you know, an egotistical standpoint, it’s just, I want to be right.

13:35 And so they and I’ve talked to guys about this too and they’re like, oh Tell her if I’m like within 50% of the ballpark yeah, my hands up and I’m like, and so the other thing that a lot of employers asked me is like what could we do?

13:50 And I said, have people ask more questions because you need to make sure that they have that opportunity.

13:58 And so there’s, you know, there’s several things that sort of go into, how do we help them along and plus you can never shut the door once you’ve opened it, so once they know what’s possible.

14:11 Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

14:13 I think it’s like for them almost to just be open minded, you know, and just kind of like raise awareness and like because I, you know for example have a younger when you were talking about putting the kids in the skid-steer.

14:27 I remember specifically a young girl, I have horses and they end up at my house all the time that just, you know, younger girls and we were at the neighbor’s house and they had like a huge dozer with the ripper, we were ripping the ground and I was like, come on like get in, let me show you how to do it.

14:44 And like it was me and my husband and her like inside the cab and it was, there was nothing that she could do wrong, you know?

14:50 But this machine is giant and it’s like one of the, you know super high end, probably a $500,000 maybe a million dollar machine just giant.

14:59 But it like literally does everything, you just press the buttons and she, I think like that in my mind was like a pivotal point for her, she was like oh my gosh like I could do something outside, not saying that she wanted to drive equipment the rest of her life, but like it empowered her and she stayed in that thing and she ripped the entire field for my husband.

15:17 Like she did the whole thing.

15:18 I mean it was like I think at least 10 acres of ground, you know, she stayed in there all day, she comes out and she’s covered in dirt and she was like So I think it’s so cool that you’re just you know and she probably never had that experience before, you know?

15:33 And she was like 19-20 at the time, like let’s give these girls opportunities to see that there’s a whole world especially if you like to be outside and you like to do things with your hands and stuff like that.

15:46 So just changing gears a little bit, what do you think is the most maybe professional achievement that you’re proud of?

15:55 Like is there just something that you’re like, I did that and I’m really proud of it, you know?

16:01 That’s a tough question, I know.

16:03 Yeah, that’s a tough question.

16:05 On the other hand, it’s pretty easy because I am so proud of this program and when you see one girl’s life change it’s like oh awesome, I mean we had 19 year old come to our day long program and afterwards her mom was talking to me and then we did an interview of her and she was like the nine year old said, I can’t believe you can go someplace for one day and come back home and your world is changed.

16:39 Oh wow.

16:41 And then she talked about driving by a work site and her mother was like, and she’s pointing out the companies and she’s like, yeah, I remember we went to see them and yeah, I could work for them and then the nine year old ghosts and I saw cranes and she said, I’ve never really seen cranes before.

16:58 Well quite frankly, I never really knew what a crane was before and her mom says, you know it was so rewarding for her because she said, I believe now my daughter will have a bigger place in this world than she would have before this.

17:15 Yeah.

17:17 And so many beautiful work.

17:18 Can’t change a life is quite frankly rolled.

17:21 Yeah, absolutely.

17:23 I think a minute in an hour or a day, that is so amazing and I just wanna thank you for the incredible work that you’re doing and I think that what you are doing should be spread further.

17:36 So with that, can you tell people again the website where they can find you if they want to like help come alongside you, how can people get in touch with you?

17:46 I will make it really easy.

17:49 The website is

17:53 They can contact me at Also on that website, they can find the coloring book, they can link to the videos.

18:03 We also have a YouTube channel where they can hear these girls talking about their experiences that you can find through the website too.

18:11 So Awesome, Well thank you so much Keller, it’s been such a pleasure getting to know you and your work and I hope that you know, I think some, because I love Colorado, if you could send me the info when you have your next one scheduled, I’d love to bring my daughter out just to see something that vast and big and you know, just be there to see support you.

18:34 So I’d love to be a part of that.

18:36 If you could send me that info, I will send you that.

18:38 We would love to have you here and thank you so much for being such an amazing role model because it really is women like you that have made the path easier for the girls behind you so we owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

18:52 Well thank you, just doing, we’re all just doing our part.

18:55 Right, awesome, Okay, we’ll have an amazing day and thank you again, I so appreciate it.

19:04 Alright, take care.

19:05 All right, bye.

19:07 Thanks for joining me today on the she build show, my name is Stefanie Olson.

19:12 My hope is that this episode leaves you feeling empowered and ready to boldly take that step into building the life that you envision 12X4 at a time.

19:21 And if you can do me a quick favor, please leave me a five star review on ITunes.

19:25 I get giddy over reading the reviews each week and I will choose one special person to win some she build swag.

19:32 Make sure you add your name to the review and I’ll reach out if you’re the winner.

19:35 Thanks again for hanging out.

19:37 Be sure to visit me at where you can ask me questions and share with me what you’re building.

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