Born and raised in the East New York section of Brooklyn, Tonia Rivers learned early on that toughness, street smarts and endurance were necessary to navigate her surroundings. Little did she know she'd use those same qualities to persevere through the tough, male-dominated field of construction. Tonia began her career working for large scale general contractors, starting out as an estimator and subsequently working her way up to Senior Project Manager. She has also held the position as a key stakeholder for a federal agency that supports the nation’s military. Tonia has been a key player in the execution of over $1Billion in projects across several market sectors. Today, the mom of three is also a devoted military spouse and has seventeen years of experience in the construction industry.
Seven years into her career, Tonia became a mom. She had feelings of fear, wondering how she would be accepted, how long she would be able to support her team and, more importantly, wondered what this would do to her career. During the pregnancy, her water broke nine weeks prior to her baby’s due date. There she was, scared, stuck in a hospital five minutes from the jobsite, two hours away from her home. She struggled to balance the demands of her career and taking care of a premature baby. A year later, she would also find herself as a single mom, raising her son.
As a woman in construction, she was used to fighting to be heard and respected. After becoming a mother in construction, the inflexibility of the industry also left her torn between the demands of her personal life and her position. Maternity leave was viewed by some as a vacation; getting her children prepped for school left it impossible to arrive to work at the hours some viewed as acceptable. Therefore, she was labeled by some as having “banker’s hours” and was at times excluded from meetings. The work which could not be completed during the day was left to be done after putting her children to bed. Burning the candle on both ends, she had many sleepless nights and shed lots of tears. At one point, she debated leaving the industry, but her drive wouldn't let her. She loved construction and was good at it. It was at that pivotal moment she realized women can have a family and their careers, but require additional support and resources to be both successful at construction and parenting. In 2021, she decided to turn her tears into works by starting a podcast where mothers in the industry tell their stories of overcoming obstacles as working moms in the construction field. The nonprofit organization shortly followed. Tonia's goal is to retain women in the industry by supporting them through their life transitions. The motto of Mothers In Construction is "Make it Happen" because, like her, that's what every mom has to do to survive.