Linda Alvarado made her mark in what had been an exclusively masculine field. Her first construction project was a bus shelter. "You could only do 20 at a time; I did 340."
She rose to become founder, CEO and president of Alvarado Construction in Denver and co-owner of the Colorado Rockies. Her company built Invesco Field, the Hyatt Regency at the Denver Convention Center and Ocean Journey (now Downtown Aquarium) among other landmarks.
Because Hispanic women couldn't get access to capital, couldn't even get a credit card, she recalls, her parents mortgaged their house to give her startup money. "Had I not succeeded they would have lost their house. I had to be creative."
Alvarado tells the story of being mistaken on job sites for "the mistress, the love child" — anything but the contract administrator she was. Men used to draw crude images of her inside the Port-o-let in various stages of undress, with scrawled rude invitations. Eventually, she says, other men started washing those images off the walls.
She remembers when she and Democratic Rep. Pat Schroeder were delegates to a women's conference in Houston in 1977 and across the city was a counter-event led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly (an event recalled in the documentary). Alvarado founded the nonprofit Adelante Mujer to help Latina women gain entry and succeed in the mainstream.
"I was so high profile, people were waiting for me to make a mistake," she said. "If I didn't succeed, that would have reflected poorly on other women."
She still feels compelled to mentor other women. She regularly takes kids to construction sites and to the ballpark and teaches them to think big. Nowadays, she says, "the technological piece is as important as the ability to pour concrete or erect steel."
Ultimately the woman's movement succeeded in getting more women in the boardroom, she said. "What women were looking for was not that guarantee that they would succeed, but at least the opportunity to try."