In the early years, Linda Alvarado would only sign formal documents with her initials. That way, no one would know she was a woman or that she was Hispanic. Today, the president and CEO of Alvarado Construction and the co-owner of the Colorado Rockies baseball team has nothing to hide. Her Denver-based general contracting firm is responsible for erecting the Colorado Convention Center, Denver International Airport, and the new Denver Broncos Stadium, among many high-profile structures.
Born in 1952, Alvarado had few role models as she came up through the ranks of a male-dominated construction industry. "Latinas did not go off to college away from home and become contractors," she says. "Whether you were Latina or not, women just didn't do it."
After she graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, California, Alvarado landed a job with a commercial development company. "Believe me, I went through all kinds of things, sexual harassment, [bathroom] graffiti with my name. There were no other women on the construction sites." In spite of the hurdles, she remained fearless. Seeing the buildings go from blueprints to tangible structures inspired the New Mexico native to try it out herself. In 1976, at the age of 24, she formed Alvarado Construction.
These days, the multimillionaire business owner spends most of her time flying around the country to oversee behemoth construction projects--when not reporting for duty as a mother of three. "I told my husband I didn't know how to cook, so instead of making teddy bear cookies, we make the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building, K-Mart stores, The Great Wall of China." The construction theme continues outside of the kitchen and into the playroom. "I've been fortunate to have built some really large projects: convention centers, high rises, stadiums. But some of the projects have been building bridges and neighborhoods out of Legos with my kids. They are different kinds of buildings, both of which are rewarding."
In her childhood home, which was a humble adobe with no indoor plumbing, Alvarado had a lot of encouragement to succeed. "My mother enables and empowers people, not because she has money or position, but because she has the ability to help people see the best in themselves. She encouraged me to do things that mothers were horrified of having their daughters do." When Alvarado couldn't get...