Rita Brown: Construction Expert, Leader, and EntrepreneurMarch 12, 2021
In honor of national Women in Construction Week (WIC) which runs from March 7-13 and includes International Women's Day, Capitol Tech is including a profile on Rita Brown, a current female construction leader, as part of the university’s women in STEM series taking place all March for Women’s History Month.
Brown began her career in construction while working for her father’s construction company as a teenager which later led to her and her husband forming their own company in the industry called Detroit Drafting1, 2.
While Brown had the experience and support to make her and her husband’s business a success, the 2000s-era recession forced their business to close1, 2. After this devastating loss, Brown began to seek out other jobs in construction. Despite her decades of experience, the job hunt was not successful, which Brown attributes to her gender and the responsibilities associated with it.
“What worked against me was I was a woman and I had children,” Brown said in an interview with told Construction Dive where she also confessed that during the job hunt a fellow woman in construction who was hiring told her “I would love to hire you, but you have five kids.2”
Not one to be deterred, Brown decided not to give up on her entrepreneurial spirit and launched not one, but two new entities—one traditional commercial construction company called Brown Construction Collective + LLC (BCC+) and another not-so traditional program called Project: Accelerate!
In addition to founding the company, Brown serves as President and CEO of BCC+, a Michigan-based business focused on steel and steel detailing for commercial projects 1, 3. While BCC+ is successful and interesting in its specific steel focus, Brown’s other project, Project: Accelerate! has garnered more attention for its altruistic and unique focus.
“We started in 2012 as a nonprofit organization, and are an advocacy program for women,” described Brown of her innovative program with Dbusiness Magazine. “During the 2008 economic recession, I noticed men in construction had industry knowledge to draw upon in case they lost their jobs — but with women, there was no such safety net”4.
In another interview with Constructor Magazine, Brown said she created Project: Accelerate! after noticing that women weren’t well represented in construction, especially older woman despite their years of experience5.
“About half of the participants have limited or no exposure to the construction industry, and the other half are already employed in the industry,” said Brown who continued to explain in the Constructor Magazine interview that “we want to help them be better at their job and better understand the opportunities available to them if they move around in the industry, building on their own strengths and interests”5.
Project: Accelerate! is a seven-week program that teaches women about various aspects of the construction industry ranging from how to enter the field to how to become a better construction leader in a modular teaching style that first provides enrollees a broad overview that becomes more focused as the week progresses5,6.
Brown recently expanded Project: Accelerate! to include Project: Spark, for educators and counselors who focus on or want to build knowledge about the construction industry; and Project: Ignite, focused on female 9-12th grade students interested in exploring a career in construction.
"Women are just as interested in careers in construction. The Construction industry brings women the closest to parity in earning potential. We, as an industry, need to be innovative and look at underrepresented communities, and that means women," said Rita Brown. "We build that pipeline connecting people to opportunities with the cooperation of our partners. We help ourselves to move forward"7.
For information on how to break into the construction industry as a women and available construction jobs, email Dr. Linda Martin, Capitol Tech's Chair of Safety, or view Capitol Tech's many degree programs that focus on safety, facilities, and construction at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
- Construction Business Owner. (2019, November 11). 20 Female Leaders in Construction You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://www.constructionbusinessowner.com/popular-now/20-female-leaders-construction-you-need-know.
- Hirt, A. (2019, March 4). Women in Construction Week: Rita Brown turned obstacle to empowerment. Retrieved from https://www.constructiondive.com/news/rita-brown-turned-obstacle-to-empowerment/549031/.
- Russell, S. (2020, September 25). P3 Project Podcast #11 – Rita Brown, president of Brown Construction Collective+ (BCC+). Retrieved from https://americandbe.com/p3-project-podcast-11-rita-brown-president-of-brown-construction-collective-bcc/.
- King, R.J. (2016, November 28). PDA Q&A: Rita Brown, E-Interview. Retrieved from https://www.dbusiness.com/business-commentary/pda-qa-rita-brown-e-interview/.
- Constructor Magazine. Kuehner-Hebert, K. (2021). Michigan Program Introduces Women to Construction Opportunities. Retrieved from https://www.constructormagazine.com/michigan-program-introduces-women-to-construction-opportunities/.
- Michigan Construction Careers. (2016, September 30). Project Accelerate. Retrieved from https://www.constructioncareersmi.com/media/project-accelerate.
- Legal News. (2017, June 22). Project: Accelerate! helps Michigan women enter skilled trades. Retrieved from http://legalnews.com/oakland/1444430.
Photo from Construction Dive