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March 4, 2024

A Woman’s place is every place


Photo by Maria Lamb
Rachael Baresh leads BNBuilders’ Special Projects Group.

In the mid-90s, I was a student at the UW, considering a major in construction management, so I took a job as a student helper in their construction offices to get a taste of the work, where I split my time between jobsites, filing and performing other administrative duties.

One morning, I walked into the trailer as a meeting was starting; a man asked if I was there to make coffee. I was taken aback — while the question was fairly innocuous, the tone of delivery made it clear that I did not belong. As a young woman, this small incident made me wonder if I could be taken seriously in this industry. So, I left the UW to rethink my career options. It took a few years, but I came back to it.


While I was enrolled in the University of Washington’s construction management program, out of a cohort of 60, only 12 of the students were women in my graduating class. Likewise, when I did my internship with a large national general contractor, I noticed there were very few women in project management, probably less than 1%. Not too surprising, given that the construction industry has historically been male-dominated, but it made it difficult to see a clear path for myself. I did not see any female role models.

My first job out of college, I would often encounter men on the jobsites that would ask me if I was bringing lunch or coffee or referred to me as a secretary. It would infuriate me, until one day I realized they aren’t used to seeing women in their workplace. They are trying to greet me but don’t know what to say. I realized their actions weren’t an act of blatant disrespect but rather part of a deeper, pervasive mindset regarding gender roles.

There was no unkindness to it, just an antiquated world view that needed to be changed. With time, I realized I need to be part of that change. To insist that I be treated no differently than men and point out “teachable moments” where things were said or done that could be interpreted as sexist. I needed to become the female role model that wasn’t available to me; to show up, move up, and nurture the next generation of women in construction.


I joined BNBuilders in 2005 and, at that time, was the only woman in project management. I loved the company, loved my coworkers, and the energy that it brought. I knew it was where I belonged. In the nearly 20 years since I first started at BNB, we’ve had tremendous growth. In 2005, women made up 6% of our operations staff (just me!); that number is now nearly 25%!

There have been some major shifts in the industry that have contributed to this growth. Project teams have grown significantly to include detailed preconstruction planning, higher safety standards, an increased emphasis on sustainability, and integration of innovative technologies. And generally, construction has become a more viable and welcoming career path for young women, especially on the project management side. We’ve still got a ways to go on the field side, but strides are being made.

This increased integration of women has had a domino effect of progressing construction culture. With more and more women entering the field, their presence is becoming normalized, and their contributions recognized. There is more work to do; women make up half of the population after all, but the progress has been huge.


When you become accustomed to being the only woman in the room, it is easy to feel a sense of competition when other women come along. It’s a scarcity mentality, believing that there is limited space for you. What I’m seeing in the industry now, which I am so proud of, is that women are supporting and celebrating each other; recognizing each other’s gifts and lifting each other up. We’ve realized that there aren’t a finite number of seats at the table — there just needs to be a bigger table.

At BNB, I believe that we exemplify this abundance mindset. We have an amazing group of women who celebrate each other’s successes (literally with wine!) and provide a support system for challenging times. I try to make a point of reaching out to new women hired and check in with them after the first few months. For us to continue this momentum, we must nurture the next generation of women coming into construction. At BNB, we have done this through several pathways:

• Women In Construction Group. We meet monthly and have regular events across our offices. This group continues to evolve as BNB grows and has become an incredible support system for women in the company.

• DEI Committee. Our DEI Committee is critical to ensuring there is a place for everyone at BNB. It is committed to bridging the gap between the field and office workers, diversifying our leadership, and making sure every voice is heard.

• Construction Inclusion Week. For Construction Inclusion Week, we not only make sure our leadership has the tools they need to support their teams, but we also create a space for open conversation and honest feedback in the form of a companywide town hall. Offering opportunities for everyone’s voice to be heard is an integral part of creating a sense of belonging for our employees.

I take pride in my contributions as a woman within the construction industry. I am also keenly aware of ongoing challenges. Women are still judged differently than men and most still deal with disrespectful behavior on jobsites at some point in their career. Despite our strides, women comprise only about 10% of the construction workforce. Yet, with each new female hire and supportive male ally, we edge closer to achieving equality. My passion for this industry fuels my determination to persist until women secure their seat at the table.

Senior Project Executive Rachael Baresh has been in the construction industry over 20 years and currently leads BNBuilders’ Special Projects Group.

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