Blazing Trails

by Balfour Beatty

Driving trucks, designing roadways, processing payments to vendors and suppliers, coordinating equipment and overseeing health and safety. What do all these activities have in common? On the Oak Hill Parkway project in Austin, Texas, all these tasks are performed by women. 

The number of women in construction is the highest it’s ever been; as of a 2022 study, 14 percent of construction workers are women. 15 women currently work on the Oak Hill Parkway joint venture, 8 of them being Balfour Beatty women. Women on the project come from diverse backgrounds and experiences and hold a wide range of roles on-site, from craft to administration and everything in-between. 

“The women on this project have such fundamental roles,” says Ellie McBride, a lead construction engineer on Oak Hill Parkway. “This project is living proof that there are no jobs women can’t do. Nothing is off-limits.” 

During her time in the construction industry, Ellie has never worked on a project with this degree of female representation. On several of her previous projects, she was the only female engineer. 

The women at Oak Hill Parkway have played a vital role in creating a strong team environment, forming interpersonal relationships and breaking down barriers that can separate men and women. The team has been intentional about creating connections between the men and women of the project while also creating space for female bonding, hosting events for the women onsite to fellowship together. 

The project team has accomplished so much since breaking ground in 2021, others have taken notice. Mark Konchar, president of U.S. Civils, celebrates the success of the team. “Our Oak Hill Parkway team is a living testament to how diverse representation forms strong, cohesive teams that deliver greater value, more innovative solutions and operational excellence on highways, bridges and critical infrastructure across the nation.”

The capable women of Oak Hill Parkway don’t just inspire those on the outside looking in, they inspire each other too. Perla Salinas, an administrative assistant on the project, feels empowered by seeing women in the field. “I used to drive by construction sites and wish that I was strong enough to do things like building bridges. I see powerful women heading out to the jobsite every day, and I get so excited. It reminds me that if men can do it, we can do it too.”

Perla has taken the confidence she’s gained on the project beyond the jobsite, feeling empowered to work on home construction projects and taking the initiative to learn new skills, tools and more. “I didn’t even know how to use a measuring tape before,” she says. “Now, I’m picking up the saw. It feels so good to learn how to do things for myself.” 

The women on the project recognize that, while the construction industry has made great progress in gender diversity, there is still a long way to go. They see themselves as trailblazers, working to change perceptions and demonstrate the true value of a diverse and inclusive workforce. Together, the women of Oak Hill Parkway are building new futures for women at Balfour Beatty and across our entire industry.