A John Deere Publication
Spring 2024

Running the Dirt World


On jobsites and behind the scenes, dedicated and ambitious women are moving the construction industry forward

Clock Icon 9 MIN READ

No two days are alike for Jennifer Morris. She not only manages her excavating company behind the scenes, but she also gets out in the field, supervising jobsites and even running excavators if she gets an itch to operate.

The dirt world has proven to be a good fit for Morris. After all, she grew up in the construction industry.

“My family owned the local concrete company, and my mom was a single mother who worked for the company,” Morris says. “I’ve always been around trucks and equipment and doing that kind of stuff with my grandfather. He was the male role model in my life. My love for trucks, equipment, and machines kind of came from him.”

In 2006, she and her husband, Greg Morris, started GFM Enterprises, a commercial and residential excavation services company on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In the beginning, Morris handled the billing from the laundry room in the couple’s home. Her interest in the business grew, as did her love for dirt.

“I wanted to go to the jobsites with Greg, check them out, be involved, and be very knowledgeable about what we were doing,” Morris says. “I wanted to know more about the business so I could educate clients on the services they were having performed. I did pursue that, and I hold my hoisting engineering license to operate heavy equipment.”

Seventeen years later, the enterprising pair have grown the company to 30 employees with jobs spanning across the Cape. Over that time, Morris has experienced changing dynamics within the industry.

“It is interesting being a woman in this industry,” she says. “When you pull up to a jobsite, not every individual takes a female seriously. But there’s definitely been a change in the reception of women on the jobsite. I find that they’re more welcome. Where before, there were times in the very beginning when we became woman-owned that a gentleman would not even give me the time of day, look at me, or have a discussion with me.”

Behind the scenes

In addition to Morris, several women help run GFM behind the scenes. Donna DiGiovanni, senior vice president, manages the company’s financial and HR responsibilities.

“I’ve known Jennifer and Greg for at least 15 years,” DiGiovanni says. “There’s a nice friendship there. It was an easy transition to come to GFM in 2020 when they were expanding the business.”

In her role, DiGiovanni understands the changing business landscape and how GFM fits into the big picture.

“More federal and state jobs are coming into play,” she says. “They’re looking for companies that have a more diversified workforce. We’ve got a good rapport with our vendors, and they continue to ask us to participate and be on jobs with them. And I think it’s also helpful to us as a business that we’re woman-owned. I think that’s a big plus for us as an organization.”

Working as DiGiovanni’s right-hand woman, Melissa Cordner ensures the office runs like a well-oiled machine. As administrative assistant, she takes on a variety of responsibilities from helping with invoicing and estimates to permitting and everything in-between. Despite joining GFM with a background in the medical field, Cordner has quickly adapted to the construction world.

“I knew it would be a learning experience starting a job in this industry,” she says. “But I also knew my office and managerial skills would carry over. I came from a male-dominated industry, the medical field, so I kind of had that always in the back of my mind. So when I’ve seen young ladies come in and they’re passionate about running the equipment, I always find that interesting, and I think that’s so cool.”


Driven by ambition

Standing at just over five feet tall, Brooke Wrightington doesn’t appear to be an intimidating person. But as an operator she’s certainly a force to be reckoned with on GFM’s jobsites — running loaders and 26-ton articulated dump trucks (ADTs) like it’s nobody’s business.

“Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, it’s a man’s world,’” says Wrightington. “Well, women are also taking it over soon. I mean, I’m five foot one, and people see me get out of this truck or a loader and their jaw drops, and they’re like, ‘Wow.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I can do it.’”

Her unwavering confidence on the jobsite was formed by being around the construction industry since childhood.

“I got into this field because my dad and my older brother had also worked in construction,” Wrightington says. “I grew up in the truck with my dad and going to jobsites to visit him. So I guess you could say it’s in my blood.”

Although she’s worked for other construction companies, Wrightington has found a home at GFM.

“You become very close,” she says. “You get to know one another. You work hard together.”

And Wrightington isn’t afraid of a little hard work.

“Brooke’s a phenomenal driver in the ADT,” Greg Morris says. “If I need her in the loader for a day, she’s not scared. If she needs to get out and grade, shovel, or rake, she’ll do that, too. She just gets right in there and gets the job done.” Wrightington currently operates a John Deere 644 P-Tier Wheel Loader and a Deere 260E ADT. Driven by ambition, she’s eager to add more equipment to that list: skid steers, excavators, and dozers.

“I’ve always wanted to learn other equipment,” she says. “Greg’s really understanding. He is willing to teach me and so are the other guys.”

Bridging the gap

The Morrises continue to experience the benefits of hiring women firsthand, especially in a male-dominated industry, to create a more diverse team.

“It shows that women can do anything men can do,” Greg says. “Brooke can run that ADT better than a lot of men that I know and me. We get the job done and do it right. Quality is huge for us.”

It’s clear the couple take pride in their people and cultivate respect within their team.

“We have a true team, and they have been great in kind of bridging the gap and saying, ‘Hey, look. This is my boss. She knows what she’s talking about. We respect her,’” Jennifer says.

As the company’s success continues, she remains optimistic and supportive of the shift toward women joining the industry and the available talent pool.

“The women in this industry that I have met are amazing,” Jennifer says. “But I think a lot of it is just breaking out and letting people know that just because you are a female doesn’t mean that you aren’t trained, certified, or licensed in what all the men on the jobsite are doing. I would encourage any woman on any level to get involved, whether they’re looking to be a project manager or a machine operator. There’s definitely room for women in the industry.”

GFM Enterprises, Inc. is serviced by United Construction & Forestry, Plymouth, Massachusetts.

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