Workforce

An Interview With the Women Leading the Way at BELL Construction

In celebration of Women in Construction Week and Women's History Month, four women leaders with BELL Construction talk career trajectories, inspiration and advice for the next generation.
By Rebecca Goss
March 13, 2024
Topics
Workforce

It's no secret that construction has historically been a male-dominated trade, but women are making strides in the industry now more than ever. The National Association of Women in Construction reports that more than 1,173,000 women are currently employed in construction, making up 9.9% of the industry in the United States.

Given that construction professionals engage with diverse populations, integrating the perspectives and experiences of women into all aspects of the process is crucial. The diverse viewpoints of women help identify opportunities and tackle obstacles in ways a homogeneous workforce cannot achieve alone.

In celebration of Women in Construction Week last week and Women’s History Month all through March, a quartet of female leaders at BELL Construction shared the stories of their career trajectories, sources of inspiration and advice for the next generation. While their specific journeys may differ, these women collectively contribute to the Brentwood, Tennessee–based company's mission of "building better... one relationship at a time," inspiring others to pursue their aspirations along the way.

What is the main focus of your role at BELL?

Caroline Blackstone, Assistant Superintendent: I have worked in the field for more than four years. I oversee onsite construction day-to-day activities such as logistics, safety, quality, reports, constructability of trades, schedules, building details and inspections of projects.

Tara Runion, Project Manager: I provide team leadership to ensure the overall success of our construction projects.

Eva James, Project Engineer: I oversee submittal processes, which includes reviewing subcontractor drawings, sampling selections and confirming that products will work well together. I also mitigate the requests for information between the architect and subcontractors to ensure a smooth construction process. I enjoy every aspect of it!

Alex Fleetwood, Human Resources Director and EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Officer: My primary focus is aligning our workforce strategy with company values, goals and objectives to drive success. In addition, I determine and implement ways to support our amazing team and advance our mission to build better, one relationship at a time.

What inspired you to pursue a career in construction?

Blackstone: I initially came to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for a scholarship opportunity with the equestrian team at Middle Tennessee State University. I discovered the Concrete Industry Management program and was encouraged by its recruiters to pursue the program. I was convinced to register for the intro class, fell in love, switched my major and have pursued a career in construction ever since!

James: My degree is in civil engineering, though I always knew I wanted hands-on work rather than looking at a computer screen all day. I was intrigued by labs focusing on material design and environmental engineering during college, so I embraced the testing aspects and practical learning opportunities they offered. I transitioned into the construction field and got a job that not only keeps me active but also presents daily challenges, allowing me to engage in problem-solving as part of the project management team.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Fleetwood: I love knowing I can make a difference in someone’s life, whether I’m answering questions about benefits, providing training and development opportunities or simply bringing coffee and doughnuts to a jobsite and spending time with our field and project teams. I’m blessed to have an amazing HR team that truly cares about BELL, our team members and each other, and is willing to do whatever it takes to serve our team well.

What is a perk about working in the construction industry that most people don’t know about?

Fleetwood: One often-overlooked perk of working in the construction industry is the sense of accomplishment you feel when you see tangible results. Unlike some office-based roles, construction professionals get to see the direct impact of their efforts in the form of completed buildings, infrastructure or projects. There's a unique satisfaction witnessing a physical structure rise from the ground and knowing your skills and hard work contributed to its creation. Completed projects can provide a profound sense of pride and fulfillment that other industries don’t always offer.

Blackstone: One perk about working in the construction industry is the opportunities available to help develop younger generations. Opportunities truly are not out of reach if you’re interested in working toward them!

James: My favorite perk is meeting people. Say an issue arises on your jobsite. You might know someone in another industry that can help you find the solution. Construction is a small world, and by attending mixers and events, you can meet people who may help your career or simply become some of the most fun colleagues ever!

What advice do you have for women considering a career in construction?

James: My advice is to go for it. Life only comes around once! Construction is such a rewarding industry. The stories you hear and relationships you build are two things I enjoy most about my job. Plus, the community benefits from all the hard work and time you put into building projects.

Fleetwood: My advice is to dive in fearlessly and embrace the opportunities this dynamic industry offers. Be persistent in pursuing your goals, and don't be afraid to challenge stereotypes. Lastly, remember that diversity, fresh perspectives and creativity are assets in the field. Your contributions are essential, and by breaking barriers, you can inspire positive change and contribute to the industry's growth!

Blackstone: My advice for women considering a career in construction is to try not to be intimidated or think you can’t do the job. Embrace your potential and pursue positions with confidence, knowing that you are fully capable of thriving in this field.

Runion: My advice for other women is to not become discouraged by having a different viewpoint from your counterparts. Your confidence will be boosted by understanding and experiencing the many contributions and perspectives women uniquely bring to the projects on which they work. If construction is what interests you, pursue your passion in the industry and build your confidence.

by Rebecca Goss
Rebecca Ozols Goss is the first female owner at BELL Construction and serves as the company’s vice president of growth and strategy. She can be contacted at rozols@bellconstructioncompany.com.

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