Women In Construction Week – Barbara Regester
Barbara Regester | Project Manager
“I grew up hearing a commercial where a little girl sang, ‘Anything you can do I can do better!’ …as she was singing it to a little boy. It kinda stuck with me. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, but I know that I am capable of doing any job a man can do. This work is not gender-specific, and women have a lot to offer the world of construction.”
Why did you get into the construction industry?
My family has always been in construction. I was a painter at a very young age and moved on to starting my own painting business. When I had learned all I could in that field, I decided to branch out–because construction is always something different. Every job is different. Construction always presents challenges to figure out, and I love a good challenge. I truly enjoy working with people who take pride in their work and like working together as a team. I’ve always found that to be present in construction, as we all have the common goal of completing a project.
Why did you choose to work at Martin Horn?
I had worked as a subcontractor for Martin Horn, first with my painting business, and then with my previous employer, where I was a mechanical project manager. I was so impressed with the people from Martin Horn and their willingness to stick by you in the tough projects. They didn’t sacrifice their subcontractors to make themselves look better. They considered everyone to be on the team…their team. They treated our crews with respect and were genuinely concerned about getting the job done well for the customer…and that’s always my goal. When I heard of an opportunity to come to work here, and I jumped at it. It has been the best move I’ve ever made in my career.
What unique skills do you bring to your job as a woman?
Sometimes women see things differently and because of that, we are able to problem solve in a different way than men do. By having a different perspective to an issue, it can change things from a problem to a solution. I’ve also found that generally, women bring a sense of calm to a project. Personally, my negotiating and conflict resolution skills bring value to construction, as I can approach a heated or stressful issue and find a solution without conflict.
Are there women who inspired you along the way? Who?
I cannot say I’ve ever had a woman who inspired me in construction, and that is sad to say. In my 25 years of experience, I hardly ever worked with women. In fact, the first woman I met in a management role in construction was at Martin Horn–Shawn Woody. I was impressed with her instantly, and we bonded over lunch shortly thereafter. It was the first time in my career I could talk to a fellow, female project manager about the challenges women face in construction. I cannot say enough about how much I appreciated her friendship (and still do).
The woman who inspired me the most, however, was my mother. She battled cancer fearlessly, hid all her problems from us as her children, and was brave to the very end. She held her head high, never let us see her suffer, and was a devout Christian who until her dying day, was selfless. I try to emulate that in my life. She has always been my inspiration and my hero.
What career advice do you have for younger women interested in construction?
- Do not be afraid to put yourself out there. Even when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing—you’re the only one who knows that. I used to live by the motto “Fake it ‘til you make it.”
- Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something and ask questions. Don’t feel inadequate if you don’t know the answer. Sometimes as women, we are afraid to look like we don’t know as much as the men in the room when we ask a question, but men have questions, too! The right manager will understand and remember that they were once where you are.
- Find a mentor. I think all young women need mentors, but especially in construction. It helps to have someone to talk to about challenges as you face them.
- Never short-change yourself, demand respect (don’t ask), and be confident. Being a confident woman, you can set an example for those that follow.
- Lastly, be true to yourself. Never lose who you are because of a job. If where you are isn’t a good fit, don’t be afraid to move on.
Why do you think women should work in construction?
Women in construction tend to do better with the small details. Women can do anything, regardless of how society may have clouded that perspective over the years. I grew up hearing a commercial where a little girl sang, “Anything you can do I can do better!” …as she was singing it to a little boy. It kinda stuck with me. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, but I know that I am capable of doing any job a man can do. This work is not gender-specific, and women have a lot to offer the world of construction. Each person, man or woman, has gifts they can contribute to the project. I believe having women on the team, whether it’s in the field, or in the office (or both), tends to produce a well-rounded team. I’m told I have a huge sympathetic nerve, and I’m proud of it. It helps me focus on the team and their goals/ambitions. When I focus on my team and help them achieve their goals, we all win. A team that feels genuinely cared about is not only a harder working team, but a happier team.