According to the National Association of Women in Construction, that’s the percentage of women working in the industry. It’s a statistic that gives weight to Chassity Vega’s theory that in a way, growing up “as one of the boys” prepared her for work in a male-dominated field.
“I have one older brother, all my cousins were boys, growing up in my neighborhood I spent time with my brother’s friends,” Vega says. “So I grew up to be tough, to hold my own, to stand up for myself – and now it just so happens that I work in construction.”
During her 10 years with the Greater Orlando Builders Association, members have gotten to know Vega well. Some have wondered whether her new position as Chief Operating Officer will change her.
“’No,’ I tell them. I’m still going to be fun Chass. It’s obviously a very different role, but I don’t change along with the title. I’ll always only ever be me.”
Indeed it seems as though fate may have been grooming Vega for GOBA’s top spot since the day she walked through the door.
Hired on as an executive assistant, she had barely collected her first paycheck when the layoffs began.
“We were amid a downturn in the economy,” she explains. Members – and membership – were suffering. The association pared down to a skeleton crew of five. Vega was one of those left standing. And immediately, necessarily, began wearing many hats.
Within the first couple of years a few colleagues took maternity leave; one decided to be a full-time mom. Again, Vega’s role grew by necessity.
Ten years later, GOBA is shorthanded and keen to hire, the economy is doing well, and this single mother of three feels as though timing was everything. When the COO position opened and was offered to Vega in early August, she was more than ready to step up.
“The stars aligned,” she says. “It’s the perfect time in my life, with my family.”
And family really is everything to Vega, a first-generation American. She was born in Norwalk, Connecticut to Puerto Rican parents, and was something of a tomboy who followed her brother into BMX racing to become the no. 1 competitor in her age group at 7.
After a few years on the bike, during which time she competed all over the country, Vega switched over to fastpitch softball, where she excelled, much to her family’s delight. Their course would be altered radically though when her stepfather was diagnosed with melanoma.
“They gave him a year to live,” she explains, “and as we always knew it was his dream to live by Disney. So we literally picked up everything, built his dream home in Windermere, and moved to Florida.”
He enjoyed the home for eight months before succumbing to the disease, and Vega began her life as a Florida teenager, eventually graduating from West Orange High School in Winter Garden. Three years ago she returned, and now enjoys a home in the city’s burgeoning downtown.
“I love it! I’m ecstatic!” she says of the area. “Development continues, there are new shops and restaurants, and we have a golf cart – we go to the farmer’s market in the morning and it’s like a dream come true.”
The “we” includes her three kids: daughter Vianca Monique, 16; and sons Kingston Cooper, almost 7, and Channing Breeze, the baby at 2.
“We are a family on the go,” says Vega. “Always out at Disney or a water park, we’re never home – you’ll never find food in my house! – but we call ourselves ‘the Liquid Family’ because we’re always packing up coolers and wondering where the day will take us.”
That could be Cocoa Beach, where they enjoy regular visits to a timeshare Vega calls “her happy place.” It could be Legoland, the Orlando Eye or the SEA LIFE Aquarium, where they have season passes.
“But I’ll tell you,” she says, “the most important thing about being of Latin descent, the thing that really holds true is that we love being together, we love making memories, just talking, laughing, and having a good time together as a family.”