(Photo above: Amanda Bolender, Meghan Bowman, Rhiannon Safford | courtesy of R&H Construction)
One Central Oregon construction company is hoping to beat the statistic of women in construction, which is still at less than 9 percent nationwide. At R&H Construction’s Central Oregon office, three women hold project management roles and while they have all taken vastly different paths to get there, they all believe that they’re exactly where they were meant to b, in construction.
Their profiles are stories of finding success despite choosing a career in a male dominated field.
Meghan Bowman, R&H’s most recent project manager, began as most do in college, uncertain about which degree she would pursue. A friend recommended construction management as a major since the architecture emphasis aligned with Bowman’s first selected major, which was art.
However, without architecture as an available emphasis, Bowman chose to focus solely on construction management. Bowman then had a string of internships while attending and in-between semesters at her university, Chico State, and one amazing opportunity to help manage the construction of four housing units for women of domestic violence. She and her partner came to Central Oregon to be near family and take advantage of all the outdoor opportunities Central Oregon has to offer.
When asked what attracted Bowman to R&H specifically, she said, “I researched R&H as a company and found that they were voted as one of the top 100 companies to work for in Oregon. They listed a top priority for their employees as keeping a good work/life balance, and that was a company worth moving for.”
Bowman is currently the project manager on three tenant improvement (TI) jobs but will soon begin the conversion of the old Ochoco Elementary School in Prineville to 29 affordable apartment units in partnership with Housing Works.
Amanda Bolender, another recent hire at R&H, had a totally different path to construction by way of simply needing a job. She was quickly hired at a construction company in Portland and was promoted from project coordinator to project engineer to senior project engineer to assistant project manager to project manager, all in the span of three years. While sitting in a hotel room in Utah (due to work travel), Bolender decided she needed a fresh start. She knew that she wanted to work for R&H because of their reputation within the industry so while in that hotel room and a quick search online, she found the project engineer position and moved to Bend shortly after.
Bolender stated that she really enjoys her job in construction and has always “gone against the grain.” Interestingly, she was the first girl in 6A sports in Oregon to get a statistic in football (besides the kicker) by catching a seven-yard reception.
Rhiannon Safford, project assistant, has been with R&H since 2014, although construction was not in her area of expertise. Safford had actually been practicing law in California for over eight years before making the move to Central Oregon and coming to work for R&H. Many of her friends were surprised when she chose construction and thought she would pursue law in Oregon or possibly something pertaining to science, since she also holds a BS in biology.
When talking about law vs. construction, Safford said, “I used to drive around town and see reminders of people or businesses that I had cases against but now I drive around town and see buildings that I had a part in helping build.” Safford also feels good working for a company that allows for the advancement of women and grateful for the opportunity to constantly be learning.
When asked what challenges face the construction industry, all three answered that the current lack of labor force was the biggest barrier industry-wide. Safford, having lived here for over three years and experiencing the extreme weather variables, noted that the short building season adds to the strain.
All three women had varying views of what it was like to be a woman in a male dominated field, although a common theme was that it’s much better than it used to be. To women looking to join the construction industry, Safford said, “Don’t be fearful of being in an old boy’s club because it’s just not that way anymore,” and Bowman aptly stated, “Just do it!”