Four Generations of Women Have Helped Lead Their Family-Owned Construction Business
Newman Backhoe Service has built a successful business by putting people first
Until the 1950s, Los Angeles County was the top agricultural county in the United States. When Herbert Newman arrived in the county in the early 1950s, he saw an opportunity.
“Back then it was all dairies,” says Nikki Worden, vice president, Newman Backhoe Service. “My grandfather saw a need for construction equipment at these dairies, so he purchased a Ford backhoe. After a while he thought, ‘You know what? I can make a business of this.’”
Today, Newman Backhoe is a 100-percent woman-owned business in Buena Park, California.
Worden and her mother, President Janet Newman Ferguson, continue to run the company with a focus on both the client and the operator.
“I was raised in this business by my family, so I have a bit of my grandfather’s beliefs, a bit of my grandmother’s, and a bit of my mother’s. I’m a mix of all of them, which is a pretty good place to be.”
Worden’s daughter, Amanda Matson, also works for the company, helping ensure the ideals of her grandparents continue on to future generations.
“My daughter brings a fresh perspective from the younger generation,” Worden says. “She’s encouraged us to adopt the latest innovations that have helped streamline our operations.”
Women in construction
Much has changed about women’s role in construction over the three decades Worden has been in the industry.
“Thirty years ago, I remember telling my grandfather that I’d like to learn how to run a backhoe. Today I wouldn’t hesitate to hire a female operator, but back then he wouldn’t hear of it.”
Like her grandmother, Worden started out working in the office. “My grandmother literally came up with the office procedures. She was very good at it. My grandfather handled the outside part of the business. That was very much his mindset — that men do this, and women do that.”
Then it was just us girls. I was told I should hire a guy to manage the outside business, but I thought, 'No, I can figure this out. Just because I’m a woman, I won’t be deterred. I will make this happen.'
That perception changed when her mom bought her uncle out. “Then it was just us girls. I was told I should hire a guy to manage the outside business, but I thought, "No, I can figure this out. Just because I’m a woman, I won’t be deterred. I will make this happen."
Today whether Worden and her mother go to a jobsite or a big meeting at LAX, it’s still mostly men. “But they know that we run the company and that they can depend on us to get what they need,” she says.
“My grandparents started this company,” she adds. “They began a legacy that I’m going to continue with my kids and grandkids. Hopefully they’re looking down and they’re very proud.”