A Q&A with our team in celebration of Women in Construction Week
For 25 years, Women in Construction Week has celebrated the careers of women across the construction industry. This year, the theme is ‘Many Paths, One Mission,’ which was chosen to emphasize the many different routes women have taken towards one unifying goal of supporting the success of women in the industry.
At BELL, we’re fortunate to have a diverse group of women on our team, both in the office and in the field. These incredible women have walked many different paths, but all help us achieve our mission of “building better… one relationship at a time” and encourage other women to pursue their goals and ambitions.
In honor of Women in Construction Week, we asked the women of BELL for their perspectives on everything from their career paths to those who inspire them, advice for the next generation and so much more. Continue reading for insights from the amazing women we’re grateful to call teammates.
What excites you most about construction?
Rebecca Ozols, Vice President of Growth & Strategy, Owner: It’s a miracle, from the moving parts, pieces, and people – to the permitting, scheduling and communication. It’s legacy work – the buildings stand long after we’re gone. It’s watching a pile of dirt become a place where people spend their lives. I also love the way the disciplines (engineering, architecture, and construction) come together to achieve a common goal.
Braissy Canizales, Senior HR Generalist: The people! I work with people who are in different stages of life, yet there is always a way to connect with them. Most of the people in the industry have the same values of working hard and taking care of their families. I am so thankful to work with team members who love what they do and are really good at their jobs. We have a great team, and it makes work something to look forward to rather than something I dread every morning.
Arianna Morelos, Skilled Laborer: I get excited by seeing the project move from dirt to actual bridges and knowing I played a part in the process.
Tara Runion, Project Manager: Construction shapes cities, brings people together and can positively impact communities. Often, we work on incredible projects that give us the ability to work with an array of masters in their field.
Rachael Overall, Marketing Project Manager: I truly love everything about the construction process. I have a background in commercial and residential construction marketing. From groundbreaking to going vertical to topping-out and closing-out – I love it all. What excites me the most about construction is driving throughout Nashville and pointing out the many iconic buildings and bridges BELL has built throughout our 53-year history. Most of all, I love our people. Our team is truly top notch – the best people to work for and with. They inspire me to bring my best every day.
Abby Redditt, Project Manager for the Heavy Highway/Civil Division: For me, construction has always closely resembled a game because I get to strategize and solve complex problems on a large scale. I get to look at a plan and think through creative ways to improve the result, beat the schedule or find innovative ways to get things done.
Jenny Hassell, Project/Contract Administrator: I’m most excited by the caliber of people in the industry. They are the salt of the earth. Construction people are the most accepting group in the world.
What advice do you have for young women entering the construction workforce?
Abby Redditt, Project Manager for the Heavy Highway/Civil Division: I would advise young women to stay humble, build relationships and ask as many questions as needed to get the answer needed. People don’t expect young employees, female OR male, to hit the ground running on their first day, but they do expect them to be engaged and eager to learn. None of us would be where we are in life if we didn’t have people in our corner that fought for us, mentored us or took time to teach us. So, embrace help and never be too arrogant to admit you don’t (and never will) know it all. You’d be surprised by how much you can learn when you say, “I don’t quite understand this. Can you walk me through it?” Others are often willing to help when you take this approach. Don’t let pride get in the way of your success.
Melissa Higginbotham, Corporate Recruiter: Educate yourself on the different types of construction and roles to determine your interests. The opportunities are truly endless and make for a very rewarding career.
Braissy Canizales, Senior HR Generalist: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask for more responsibilities or even ask for a raise or promotion. Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself. No one can read minds, so voice your concerns and feelings. Be kind and stand up for others. Lastly, when you work hard and perform well, anyone is willing to hire you and pay you what you deserve. Find a company that will take care of you and that you can call home.
Tara Runion, Project Manager: As you enter the construction workforce, do not become discouraged by having a different viewpoint as your male counterparts. Know that women are powerful assets to a project, particularly regarding communication and organization.
Rachael Overall, Marketing Project Manager: My advice is the same regardless of the industry – find a company that aligns with your values. If the company does not abide by its core values, leave.
Arianna Morelos, Skilled Laborer: I’d tell young women that no matter how hard it may seem, you can go far if you push yourself.
As of 2022, women makeup 10.9% of the construction workforce according to the US Labor Bureau. What efforts could be taken to encourage more women to pursue careers in this industry?
Tara Runion, Project Manager: It would be great to highlight construction career opportunities adjacent to field work like project management, scheduling, engineering, safety and marketing. Many construction companies only attend construction management-focused career fairs, but this presence can be extended to business, engineering, all major career fairs, etc.
Rachael Overall, Marketing Project Manager: As an industry, we can let young women know there is a “place” for them in construction within their niche. We need everyone’s talents – interior designers, graphic designers, photographers, copywriters, human resources, architects, etc. We need to do a better job of marketing career opportunities available to women in construction.
Have you been a mentor or mentored other women during your career?
Jenny Hassell, Project/Contract Administrator: Of course! My specialty is helping younger women understand the workforce and encouraging them to trust themselves. I’m an encourager. I think it’s my spiritual gift.
Rebecca Ozols, Vice President of Growth & Strategy, Owner: I’m passionate about mentorship and the power of peer networks. I connect frequently with other women in the industry, even amongst my competitors. There is a lot to learn from one another and a rising tide lifts all ships. Currently, I have two mentees and I enjoy hearing their perspectives and understanding their challenges. I love seeing how they’re infusing creativity into their roles.
Rachael Overall, Marketing Project Manager: I have had the pleasure of being mentored by several strong women throughout my career, many of whom I still speak with today. From tips on motherhood to navigating my career, I continue to value their leadership. I call one of my mentors “my big sister in construction,” and she calls me “lil sis.” We started working together in a client/account manager role over 15 years ago and remained friends as my career took a different path. I still reach out to her for advice.
Melissa Higginbotham, Corporate Recruiter I have been fortunate in my career to work alongside intelligent women that mentored me, and I enjoy paying that forward. Knowledge sharing only makes your team better.
What accomplishments in your construction career are you most proud of and why?
Abby Redditt, Project Manager for the Heavy Highway/Civil Division: I’m proud of becoming a Professional Engineer, which was a goal I set for myself upon graduation. I passed the test in the fall of 2021. This was a career milestone and a reminder that there’s always a step I can take to improve myself. I was also recently told that I am valued for my influence by my coworkers and superintendents. My job has always been more to me than the profit and bottom line. I pray every day that I may have a positive impact on others and be a source of light and joy to those around me, so it was very affirming to hear that.
Pamela Boyd-Walker, Office and Contract Administrator: The accomplishments I’m most proud of include getting federal & local funding approval for the Gordie Howe Bridge, which will be the newest border crossing between Michigan and Canada, becoming a certified training facilitator for professional development courses, helping co-workers achieve their career goals and joining the BELL Construction team after moving to Tennessee. I have learned a great deal about how private and public entities partner to get things done.
Jenny Hassell, Project/Contract Administrator: I am a “behind the scenes” worker. None of my accomplishments are necessarily big ones I can make a Facebook post about and gather “Oh my gosh!” compliments. My victories are daily and small. I win every day by working for BELL.
Who inspired you to pursue a career in construction?
Rebecca Ozols, Vice President of Growth & Strategy, Owner: My grandpa immigrated from the USSR and arrived in the United States with five kids and my grandma. He began working as a homebuilder and eventually founded his own company, Ozols Construction. My dad followed in his footsteps and runs the company today. Despite construction being in my DNA, I never imagined I’d work in the industry. However, the constant exposure to construction is probably why it didn’t seem strange when I was approached with the opportunity at BELL. When I am marketing BELL to future clients, I know I’m promoting the best general contractor in the state. It’s hard not to get excited about that.
Arianna Morelos, Skilled Laborer: My life inspired me to pursue a career in construction. At age 11, I was helping raise my little siblings with my mother. At age 15, I had to make sure the family was fed. I continued studying and working, but there were times we didn’t have a place to live. We struggled and starved, but we survived. I needed to work in a place where I made enough money to help my mother support and raise the little ones. As my life unfolded, it inspired me to pursue a career in construction.
Pamela Boyd-Walker, Office and Contract Administrator: Prior to working for BELL, I had the pleasure of working in urban and statewide planning at the Michigan Department of Transportation for 26 years. I had lots of mentors and folks who inspired me and cared enough to encourage me to continue moving forward in my career. I assisted many local communities receive federal aid to improve their transportation infrastructure and the biggest motivator was always their thanks and appreciation for assisting them accomplish their vision for their communities.
Adriana Serafin, HR Assistant: I’m inspired by other construction workers. Growing up in Chicago, I was in awe of the tall buildings and the hard work that goes into creating a beautiful community. I always thought it would be a great, unique opportunity to work in the construction industry as a female.