Northern Nevada females are cracking the surface in male-dominated industries (Women in Business series, part 3)

Teresa Di Loreto says she has "never felt being a woman has made a difference."

Teresa Di Loreto says she has "never felt being a woman has made a difference."

RENO, Nev. — It was a leap of faith, even for a woman carrying one of the most recognizable names in Northern Nevada construction.

When Teresa Di Loreto broke away from her family’s business two years ago to go it on her own, her driving force was the need for self-growth. The fact that a woman would do so in a male-dominated industry was, she believes, secondary.

“It is a bit unusual,” Di Loreto, a partner in Paradiso Communities, said of her gender and the industry she learned at the knee of her father, Perry Di Loreto, and uncle, Tom Di Loreto, while growing up in Carson City and later working for Di Loreto Homes.

“But I don’t think gender has any impact positive or negative. We’re all after the same goal,” Di Loreto said of her fellow home-builders.

Moreover, she added, “I’ve never felt being a woman has made a difference. Maybe that’s because I grew up having to answer to my dad and uncle every day. I’ve always been my dad’s little boy.”

She’s already proving her worth. Paradiso Communities’ managing partners, Di Loreto and John Foley, have begun a 194-home development, Legacy Pointe 10 miles north of downtown Reno. There, nearly half of the 61 homes in the project’s first phase have been sold so far.

“I see it as an opportunity to grow,” Di Loreto said of her venture as a home-builder in her own right. “Growing up here, we all stick together. When I got asked to go on the Builders Association board, the gentlemen I’d surrounded myself with embraced me as a sister.

“You have to earn that respect.”

Breaking the glass ceiling

Di Loreto isn’t alone in breaking into traditionally male-dominated industries. Women have taken over leadership roles in manufacturing, mining and even gaming, the state’s biggest industry long controlled by men.

“The glass ceiling is being broken all the time. I’m the first woman to hold this job in 100 years of the Nevada Mining Association,” said Dana Bennett, president of the state mining industry’s chief trade group and lobbying arm.

The latest, and perhaps biggest, breakthrough came in January when state Sen. Becky Harris, R-Las Vegas, was appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval as the first woman to chair the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the agency charged with the day-to-day policing and regulating of the casino industry.

“What once seemed like uncharted territory, now pathways are opening up,” Harris said of women in gaming. “Women expect it now. It’s phenomenal, the potential that is being realized.”

Harris downplays her pioneering role, citing Patricia Becker, the first woman member of the three-person Gaming Control Board in the 1980s. Harris, though, is the first woman to run the agency.

“Women see things through a different lens,” Harris said. “I have two daughters. At the time I went to grad school, there weren’t expectations. For my daughters, it is absolutely expected. It is gratifying to see their choices are not limited anymore.”

For women in gaming, it’s an ongoing process. Last year, Las Vegas-based Women of Diversity Productions Inc., asked 30 gaming companies to take part in a survey for its Gaming Gender Equality Index. Just five responded.

The women’s empowerment group is conducting another survey this year with a longer response time in hopes, officials said, of capturing a larger pool of respondents.

“What everybody really buzzed about was the lack of C-suite representation for women,” Marlene Adrian, president of nonprofit Women of Diversity Productions, Inc., said of CEO, CFO, COO and other chief officer roles. “Board position percentages of women are still at an average of 20 percent. A few are at 50-50. It’s going to take a few more years. We’ll see a greater discussion. It will take time.”

Virginia Valentine is the first woman president of the hotel-casino industry’s Nevada Resort Association based in Las Vegas, among the most powerful lobbying groups in Nevada.

“Gaming is changing as more women move up the ranks. It’s nice to see. Change is slow, but it’s happening,” Valentine said.

‘Maintain a professional attitude’

Harris, Di Loreto and others are pioneers for tomorrow’s businesswomen, whose numbers are growing by at least one marker. Women graduates of the University of Nevada, Reno College of Business grew by 20 percent from 2013 to 2017, according to data provided by UNR.

“My advice to young women today is to maintain a professional attitude,” said Eren Ozmen, owner and president of defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corporation in Sparks. “There will be people who may try to intimidate you or put pressure on you, but remember this about their insecurity and personal agenda and not about yours.”

And they will have advantages earlier on that their predecessors didn’t, especially when it comes to confidence and expectations.

“My daughter gets it already. She feels grateful to have that confidence right out of college,” said Valerie Clark, president of insurance brokerage Clark & Associates of Nevada. “Girls today don’t have that feeling of hoping they can get to that next level. They know they will get to that next level.”

Said Ann Silver, CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce, “If I were raising a young girl now, I wouldn’t tell her it’s going to be tough competing with men. I’d say just be your best person. We tell that to little boys. We need to tell that to little girls, too. The sky’s the limit.”

Also, women’s support networks exist now where they didn’t before.

“Reno is incredibly supportive for women in business,” said Ellen Raynor, founder/CEO of KeepOnMovin’, an early-stage physical therapy software maker in Truckee. She cites 1 Million Cups Reno, StartUpNV and Girlmade, a women’s startup accelerator program headed by Silicon Valley transplant Lauren Klein.

There also are local chapters of the eWomenNetwork and Commercial Real Estate Women, as well as the Northern Nevada Women Lawyers Association.

“I think women, especially in the last 10 years, have really embraced each other and try to be supportive,” said Valerie Glenn, principal of The Glenn Group in Reno. “It does my heart good to see how that has grown.”

Bill O’Driscoll is a Reno journalist and former editor of the NNBW. If you have feedback about this story, email us at


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