Women in landscape - Kristina Smith-Becker Email
Written by Colorado Green NOW   
Monday, January 10, 2022 02:00 AM

Colorado Green Now

Kristina Smith-Becker is president at American Design & Landscape. Her parents started the business in the late 1960s and as a child in junior high she was working in it by answering the phone. Though she went back to Colorado during summers after staring college, she did not work in the family business but started a small maintenance company mowing for HOAs, and enjoyed working outside. A few years after graduation, while working in an office, her father asked if she would come back into the business. She did. Over time, her parents faded out of the business and she took it over. She has done a lot of self-learning, taken classes, attended conferences and received certifications. After more than 30 years she still finds it exciting to see customers light up.

 Her thoughts on her career experience:

 Gender disparity

I don’t experience many gender issues now because I’m in a different position. I remember when I was younger and out in the field, we bid on a commercial landscape construction job. I had prepared the takeoffs, estimate and submitted the bid, and we were awarded the contract. The initial meeting with the project general contractor and all the subcontractors was in a typical construction trailer. Though my dad had no part in creating the bid, I invited him to the meeting because I felt more comfortable bringing him. Every question about the landscape construction was addressed to my father and he kept saying, ‘you’ll have to ask Kristina.’ They had assumed I was an assistant taking notes. Later, when I was on the site working, the site superintendent came over and was surprised I knew what I was doing. I didn’t take it personally. If you’re polite, do what you say you’re going to do and show them that you know, men like having women in the field. Of course, as a young woman in the field, I got the cat calls. That was more common years ago. I think there are jobs I didn’t get because I’m a woman and I think I got some jobs because I was a woman. It has worked both ways for me.


My mother and father worked in the business and they were supportive. My dad raised me to believe there is nothing a woman can’t do that a man does. They helped me grow in the business and we all grew the business. As a small family business, it’s common for every- one to jump in and help each other. My company team members have been mentors as well. Nearly everyone who has joined our company has come with unique skills that have elevated it in some way and it’s been fun learning from them. I also currently work with a human resources consultant who has been a tremendous asset.


Get education in the industry—maybe a degree in landscape construction or design—or take a lot of classes online or in person, and get as many certifications as you can—irrigation, sustainability, lighting, paver or wall installation, etc. Be willing to do other things in a company that were not your original preference and learn what you can. Ask if you can do an internship with a landscape company. Go to job sites if you’re in the office. Be willing to get your hands dirty. Women do need to prove themselves. Once the men trust that you can do your job, they are more apt to give you other opportunities. With some of my young designers, I tell them they have to prove themselves because of both their age and their gender. Talk to clients about what you know and tell them of your certifications and experience. Learn as much as you can.

Benefits of women in industry

Women can elevate the industry. They are usually great communicators. They are often very detail oriented and conscientious, and they’re creative. Most of the women I have worked with in our industry have been very ethical. Women tend to have less ego. What I’ve learned from hiring is women are more likely to undersell their abilities and men sometimes oversell theirs. Women are generally excellent listeners with clients and not likely to push an agenda. We need both men and women in the industry. More women can help break down some beliefs about women.

Read more in this issue of Colorado Green Now:
Women in landscape: Charlene Farley Chacon
Women in landscape: Jessi Burg
Women in landscape: Leann Ostheimer
Women in landscape 2021: Part 2

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