How women are breaking ground in the construction industry

A Q&A with the women of BELL in celebration of Women in Construction Week

It is not surprising 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 and make up 9.9% of the construction 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, we spoke with several female leaders at BELL Construction about their career trajectories, sources of inspiration and advice for the next generation. While their journeys may differ, these women collectively contribute to the 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 & 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.

Jenny Hassell, Project/Contract Administrator: I create subcontracts, change orders on specific projects, track paperwork and solidify dollar amounts in our accounting system. I act as the liaison between the project management and accounting departments to ensure our process is successful. 

Kelly Frizzell, Preconstruction Administrator: I originally served as a project engineer and project manager at BELL for almost ten years before becoming a stay-at-home mom for four years. I have been back at BELL part-time for 12 years and help wherever I’m needed. I ensure we have subcontractor coverage for projects we are bidding, talk to subcontractors about varying issues, submit proposals and assist our marketing department. 

Mary Hansen, Estimator: I work in the preconstruction department and handle the in-house take-offs to complete estimates and evaluate subcontractors’ numbers.


What inspired you to pursue a career in construction?

Caroline Blackstone, Assistant Superintendent: I initially came to Murfreesboro, TN, 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 inspired to register for the intro class, fell in love, switched my major and have pursued a career in construction ever since!

Eva James, Project Engineer: 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.

Kelly Frizzell, Preconstruction Administrator: My grandfather started a residential construction company in 1953 that is still in operation. That has always inspired me. I completed college with a bachelor’s degree in industrial management and engineering. After realizing engineering wasn’t the right fit, I went back to school to pursue architecture. I was hired at BELL in 1999, and the rest is history! My mentors, coworkers and fellow construction industry peers have inspired me to continue growing in this space.

Mary Hansen, Estimator: After designing and contracting our family’s first home in 1998, I was inspired to pursue project management and realized construction was my calling.

Melissa Higginbotham, Recruiter: I believe it’s crucial to choose a career path that provides a sense of purpose and satisfaction. I started my professional journey in the engineering industry, where I gained valuable experience and learned how construction brings great ideas to life. The transition to this industry was a natural choice and has proven to be truly rewarding. The dynamic talent of our people and projects never ceases to amaze me. This field offers all the intangibles I was seeking in my career.


What do you enjoy most about your job?

Alex Fleetwood, Human Resources Director & EEO officer: 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 donuts 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?

Caroline Blackstone, Assistant Superintendent: 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!

Eva James, Project Engineer: My favorite perk is meeting people. Say an issue arises on your job site. 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! 

Melissa Higginbotham, Recruiter: At BELL, we understand it takes a team effort to accomplish a successful project, which makes it a great place to work. Another perk I enjoy is that no two days are the same. My job provides me the opportunity to step away from the desk, visit our job sites and field leadership, educate potential hires about careers in construction, develop relationships and recruit talented individuals to our amazing team.

Alex Fleetwood, Human Resources Director & EEO officer: 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.


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

Alex Fleetwood, Human Resources Director & EEO officer: 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!

Caroline Blackstone, Assistant Superintendent: 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.

Eva James, Project Engineer: 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. 

Tara Runion, Project Manager: 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.

Kelly Frizzell, Preconstruction Administrator: Construction is an excellent career with lots of growth opportunities and diverse needs that women are adept at handling. While many in the trade continue to adhere to traditional methods, new technology and products are significantly reshaping these practices, which is incredibly exciting! The unpredictability of each day means we’re often faced with various challenges, and women, in particular, excel at multitasking and managing whatever comes our way.


What’s the industry’s biggest opportunity right now?

Alex Fleetwood, Human Resources Director & EEO officer: One of the construction industry’s biggest opportunities right now lies in embracing sustainable and innovative practices. With the growing emphasis on environmental consciousness and green technologies, there’s a significant demand for sustainable construction methods, materials and energy-efficient solutions. Companies that invest in eco-friendly approaches can position themselves as industry leaders and meet the increasing market demand for sustainable projects. 

Caroline Blackstone, Assistant Superintendent: There’s a major opportunity for careers in the construction industry right now because the construction rate has grown so rapidly. Any position that interests you, from project management to field work, is within reach!


How has BELL supported your success?

Jenny Hassell, Project/Contract Administrator: BELL has provided great leadership, fairness, education, and a willingness to incorporate fresh ideas into the experience here.

Kelly Frizzell, Preconstruction Administrator: Early on as a project manager, I was given the opportunity to audit a number of law school classes. Though I was only auditing the classes, I attended, took the tests and participated. It was interesting and extremely helpful  when I was writing contracts and sending letters throughout the years. 

Melissa Higginbotham, Recruiter BELL has supported my continued professional growth and ensured my goals are aligned with those of the company. This environment not only inspires me to step outside of my comfort zone, but provides continuous learning opportunities and growth, while meeting the needs of the business.


What has been the biggest change in the construction industry?

Caroline Blackstone, Assistant Superintendent: One of the most significant shifts in the construction industry has been how we obtain materials, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Suppliers have communicated that their long lead times may never return to “normal” or pre-pandemic time frames. This requires us to reevaluate our practices around the supply chain, and practice more flexibility when it comes to project planning.

Mary Hansen, Estimator: The biggest change I’ve seen in the industry is the impact of technology. When I started my first job in construction, we dealt strictly with paper bid documents. Printing, copying and shipping were daily necessities before moving to electronic documents. I was involved with the company’s first process to enable the download of bid documents from the website, which resulted in major financial and time savings.

Rebecca Ozols Goss is the first female owner at BELL Construction and serves as the company’s Vice President of Growth & Strategy. She can be contacted at