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Caterpillar celebrates women in construction

By Brock Huffstutler

March 17, 2024

Azaria Biven, Kait Burds and Kenzi Tackett

Azaria Biven, Kait Burds and Kenzi Tackett

Caterpillar hosted its first Women in Construction Celebration on March 13-14 in Clayton, N.C., where Kait Burds of Dubuque, Iowa, took home top honors by demonstrating her machine operator skills by maneuvering difficult work site challenges in record time with extreme precision.

Burds was one of 18 women — representing Cat® dealers throughout the Americas — who gathered at Caterpillar’s Edward J. Rapp Customer & Training Center to compete in skills tests, learn about the latest industry trends and network with peers.

“I feel really good; the competition was pretty stiff. It’s good affirmation of the hard work I put into my career,” said Burds. “I hope this event gives women in construction more exposure and gives them the confidence to go out and do things that scare them.”

The skills tests included expertise in the following areas:

Small Wheel Loader: Move material through the course to achieve 7.0 -7.5 tons; then change to forks and use them to move a pallet.
Compact Track Loader: Navigate an obstacle course using multiple machine functions.
Small Hydraulic Excavator: Load truck to achieve 10.0-tons payload.

Along with the tests, the competitors participated in a panel discussion where they shared best practices, discussed managing a successful career in a male-dominated industry and talked about the importance of recruiting more female operators and technicians into the workforce.

“The event is a celebration of female machine operators who build our world, advocate and drive awareness for their trade, and highlight solutions that address job site needs,” said Chrissy Metz, Caterpillar marketing manager. “Each competitor demonstrates advanced abilities operating the latest Cat construction machines and technologies, showing the world the invaluable role women play in the construction industry.”

Lt. Col. Tammy Barlette, a retired Air Force fighter pilot, delivered the keynote during the opening lunch where she shared lessons learned from her years in the cockpit that she now applies to everyday life.

The event concluded with an awards ceremony where the overall skills test winner and others were recognized:

Overall Skills Test: Kait Burds, Dubuque, Iowa
Small Wheel Loader Skills Test: Kait Burds
Compact Track Loader Skills Test: Kenzi Tackett, Ray, Ohio
Small Hydraulic Excavator Skills Test: Azaria Biven, Indianapolis

Shayla Sublette of Warren Cat operates a small wheel loader

Shayla Sublette of Warren Cat operates a small wheel loader

Those who participated in Caterpillar’s first Women in Construction Celebration and their supporting Cat dealer were:
Kait Burds, Ziegler Cat
Daiane da Silva Candido, Sotreq
Jordyn Ledford, Stowers Cat
Shayla Sublette, Warren Cat
Azaria Biven, MacAllister Machinery
Ana Gonzales, Thompson Machinery
Misheala Brozovich, Wagner Cat
Amanda Miles, Gregory Poole
Rondalee Wilke, Ring Power
Letti Ortiz, Holt Cat
Miranda Menchaca, Holt Cat
Mackenzie Tackett, Ohio Cat
Chelsey Holdosi, Carter Machinery
Rachel Riggs, Empire Cat
Megan Riley, Empire Cat
Alexandra Smith, Milton Cat
Whitney Poulin, Milton Cat
Carla Vitoria de Araujo Marques, Sotreq

Caterpillar’s Women in Construction Celebration follows the company’s Global Operator Challenge which brings together machine operators — both men and women — to compete against each other in various work site challenges.