From left, Jackie Isidore, Donna Vargo, Naomi Lohnes and Ashly Ortiz outside the Kearny Mesa office of Johnson & Jennings.

From left, Jackie Isidore, Donna Vargo, Naomi Lohnes and Ashly Ortiz outside the Kearny Mesa office of Johnson & Jennings. Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle.

— In an industry that has failed to attract women in significant numbers, Johnson & Jennings General Contracting stands out.

The San Diego company had a woman as one of its two owners when it was founded in 1981 — Jackie Jennings — and it is owned by two women — Donna Vargo and Naomi Lohnes, who bought it in 2013.

Vargo is president, chief executive officer and holds the company’s contractor’s license.

Lohnes is chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

Women also are in other key management positions, including Jackie Isidore, vice president of marketing business development, and Ashly Ortiz, recently promoted to assistant project manager.

Three of the company’s six project managers also are women.

Field Is Not Representative

By comparison, women account for only 9 percent of people working in the construction industry nationwide, only 7 percent of construction managers are women, and only 5 percent of C-level executives are women, according to the National Association of Women in Construction.

Of the top 30 general contractors in the San Diego Business Journal’s Book of Lists, only one has a female local executive.

Creating Work-Life Balance

“Our culture is crafted by the fact that we have two women owners, two women leaders,” Isidore said.

“Women manage things differently,” Vargo said. “We really care about our people. They’re not just a number. We’re very sympathetic. We try to find work-life balances for everybody.”

“That culture has helped us win clients,” Isidore said.

Among the company’s recent projects were the demolition and ground-up construction of a 12,698 square foot pediatric medical clinic and renovation of three other buildings for North County Health Services and transforming an abandoned 10,000 square-foot medical arts building into a homeless veterans’ recuperative care center for Interfaith Community Services.

Johnson & Jennings, or J&J as it is known in the industry, also has contracts for ongoing work with Raytheon, Hazard Center, Cortica, Banner Bank and Union Bank and is in preconstruction work with Academy of Our Lady of Peace for renovations to preserve the historic campus of the girls’ high school and create new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) facilities.

“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the school while simultaneously expanding exposure for new generations of women in the construction industry,” Isidore said.

Client Sensitive

Ron Sutliff, a project manager with Cushman & Wakefield who worked with J&J on the pediatric clinic and several other projects, said he likes dealing with them because “they are very client sensitive.”

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