There are many paths to a career in construction. Rita Brown describes her unique path as “hard work, often in the face of bias and ignorance.”
“Education and preparedness multiplied by an unparalleled immigrant work ethic was my foundation,” Brown said. “That lesson of hard work, often in the face of bias and ignorance, showed me that purpose, perseverance, integrity, and relentless dedication is in itself a formidable strength and a true path to success.”
The CEO of BCC+ and EmergeTech, LLC, Brown grew up in the construction industry working summers and after school in her father’s engineering and detailing company. From counting cars for their traffic division, learning how to run prints and draw steel, to answering phones, handling project documents, and providing administrative support, she was exposed early on to the diverse opportunities in construction. She also learned from her father, who worked his way up from being a graduate student to CEO/President, that the industry could provide a solid career.
As a woman in the industry, particularly a woman of color, her greatest challenge “has come from those who are reluctant to embrace innovation or progress: generationally, ethnically, or in terms of thought leadership. Those challenges become an opportunity when you use those moments to better hone your intentions and honor your integrity.”
Whether advocating for a skilled workforce, innovation integration, a more efficient economic energy system, or adoption of JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) initiatives, Brown has had an impact on the industry.
“What got us here won’t get us there, and the industry is starting to make that tangible shift. It’s a good start,” she said. “What’s been incredibly affirming is the majority of colleagues and friends in this industry that have supported and encouraged my career, projects, and accomplishments, large and small, and who are there for the many bumps and redirections that we all face at times.”
One of the initiatives Brown works on is Project: Accelerate! It is an industry exposure program for women that Brown founded with initial local sponsorship support from NAWIC and other industry partners. In the last 10 years, graduates of the program have gone on to careers in construction from entry-level to CEO. In 2017, Brown was invited to discuss the project at a White House policy briefing.
“Contributing to salient discussions on workforce and program development was also pretty darn cool,” she says. “I’m beyond excited by the pivotal opportunities in influencing and changing culture and helping entities grow with solid, modernized and equitable business processes and programs. The reimagination of tasks, incorporating innovative blended positions, adding consideration for reducing the reproductive-based bias, and adding in pregnancy and family care considerations are aspects of a progress-driven industry that will benefit all of us.”
“Be aspirational. Be intentional.”
Brown encourages women to research opportunities and explore their interests in the field, as well as to seek mentorship opportunities.
“The building industry is expansive, and if that is where you want to be, there’s a place for you at whatever age, gender or training level you are at.”
Since becoming a member of the Lansing, Michigan chapter, Brown has served NAWIC in many roles, including Region Director/National Board Member, Region Membership/Marketing Chair, Chapter Immediate Past President, President, VP, Secretary, Director, National Task Force Lead, and MOSAIC DEI. “NAWIC at its best is a collaborative professional organization. I’ve been able to leverage opportunity, talent and relationships that have tremendous value in my world.”
If you know of a NAWIC member that deserves to be recognized as a Best Person for the Job, contact us today!
Photo credit: Becky Steffens Photography