(Photo by Glynns Thomas)

Women in Leadership: Mirtha Villarreal-Younger

Our annual salute to women at the top of their field

Back Article Mar 13, 2024 By Jennifer Fergesen

This story is part of our March 2024 issue. To subscribe, click here.

Mirtha Villarreal-Younger

CEO and President, Agile Construction

Mirtha Villarreal-Younger, CEO and president of Agile Construction in Sacramento, joined the military as soon as she graduated from Roseville High School at 18. She ended up serving for 20 years in both the U.S. Army and the National Guard, including multiple tours in Afghanistan. Born in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, to parents from Durango, Mexico, she says the military was the first place she felt like “your background, what you look like, what neighborhood you lived in” didn’t matter. 

“It really was about what you brought to the table, your leadership, your drive, your perseverance, all of those things, because we were all starting in the same place. We were all wearing the same outfit, the same uniform,” Villarreal-Younger continues. “You’re in an environment where your identity is being formed strictly on your capabilities, and that is an incredibly empowering place to be.” 

“As a woman, we have our circle, our tribe of women, and we talk to each other, and sometimes what that does is bring to the table things that we never would have thought of.”

Today, as the leader of a general construction firm specializing in government projects, Villarreal-Younger aims to create the same kind of empowering environment for her employees and contractors. “Being able to serve and give back has always been part of my philosophy and my thought process,” she says. 

Villarreal-Younger’s leadership of the company, which she co-owns with her husband Martin Younger, is the culmination of a decades-long effort to platform underrepresented voices. In 2013, former Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her to be deputy secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, a role that focused on outreach for veterans from minority backgrounds. She left that position to serve as executive director for the Center for Post-Traumatic Growth, a Gold River-based nonprofit that supports combat veterans and first responders struggling with PTSD and moral injury. (The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs defines moral injury as trauma that results from “acting or witnessing behaviors that go against an individual’s values and moral beliefs.”) 

It wasn’t until a fateful chat with a friend that Villarreal-Younger realized that the best way to support veterans might be through the construction company that her husband started. “As a woman, we have our circle, our tribe of women, and we talk to each other, and sometimes what that does is bring to the table things that we never would have thought of,” she says. “My friend said, ‘You can give yourself the opportunity to own your company and be successful and still give back.’ … So I looked at our company and decided to come on board full time as the CEO and president.” 

With Villarreal-Younger at the helm, Agile Construction subcontracts as much as possible to women- and veteran-owned companies, forming a network that connects small businesses across the region to lucrative federal and state contracts. “I never thought that construction would be the place that I would land and hope to make an impact, but it really goes to show that in any walk of life, you can use your platform in any position to feed your soul,” she says.  

The mother of a 15-year-old daughter, Villarreal-Younger is especially passionate about extending the opportunities in construction to young women. “We really have to do our job of planting the seed in the younger generation so that in three, five, 10 years from now, we’re seeing (female) representation in the C-suites and at the corporate level,” she says. “I’m hoping that as my daughter steps off into the professional world, it’ll just be the norm.”  

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