Internet conspiracy theorists have claimed the deadly pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University, which killed six, was a consequence of having women lead its construction.
A video blogger with the handle Wife With A Purpose titled her 30-minute YouTube video "Florida Bridge Collapse, All Female Company." The video is based on an article from the website Squawker that suggests a high number of female employees doomed the construction project to failure.
The two companies involved in the construction were FIGG Bridge Group and Munilla Construction Management, though bloggers have focused on MCM as the key culprit. (But as our friends at Snopes point out, this choice is a somewhat ironic considering FIGG’s CEO is a woman.)
A visit to MCM’s homepage clearly shows the company is not staffed exclusively by women — not by a long shot. In fact, the MCM website page that features key personnel does not include a single woman.
According to MCM’s website, the company is fully owned and managed by five brothers: Raul Munilla, Juan Munilla, Jorge Munilla, Lou Munilla, Fernando Munilla and Pedro Munilla (seen below, from left to right).
As for MCM’s vice president? Its manager of general construction? Or its regional operations director for Texas? All men, too.
"Although the company has several women in very responsible roles, the ownership is made up of the Munilla brothers and their families," said Donald Silver, a spokesman for MCM. "It is so unfortunate that some junk news sites chose to carry unsubstantiated stories that were false and hurtful."
To bolster the flimsy case against women construction workers, the Squawker article places great weight on an interview between an MCM employee and her alma mater, Florida International University.
Leonor Flores, a project executive at MCM and a 1998 graduation of FIU, was interviewed for an article that would appear on FIU’s website about the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge.
"It’s very important for me as a woman and an engineer to be able to promote that to my daughter, because I think women have a different perspective. We’re able to put in an artistic touch and we’re able to build, too," Flores told FIU in an article that ran March 3, less than two weeks before the March 15 bridge collapse.
The Squawker article pointed to Flores’ quote as proof that MCM had allowed senior-ranking female employees to prioritize aesthetics over safety. The Squawker article characterizes Flores’ quote as follows:
"Leonor Flores, FIU alumna, and MCM project exec says her number one priority when building bridges is to make sure they look pretty. Nothing else matters."
But let’s set to one side this rather extreme reading of Flores’ quote. An update to the FIU article issued a day after the bridge collapse clarified that "Leonor Flores did not work on the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge project in any capacity."
Silver, the MCM spokesman, confirmed Flores was not the project manager on the FIU pedestrian bridge construction project.
A video blogger said an all-female construction company built the Florida bridge that collapsed.
One of the two companies responsible for building the bridge — and the focus of the conspiracy theory — is MCM, which is owned and managed by five brothers. MCM’s vice president, manager of general construction and its Texas operations director are all men. In fact, the MCM website page that features key personnel does not include a single woman.
Furthermore, Leonor Flores, a project executive at MCM, who has figured into the conspiracy theory as something of a scapegoat, had no involvement in FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge, according to her alma mater FIU.
We rate this Pants on Fire.