No. 1 Must-Have: “Being direct. Raw honesty.”
Susan Bouthillette is a trailblazing professional in the construction industry, with a passion for innovation and empowering the next generation of women in this field. Nominated for the Outstanding Women in Construction (OWIC) contest by a group of her co-workers, Bouthillette’s journey is a testament to her dedication, expertise and commitment to fostering diversity within the construction sector.
Bouthillette began her career in architecture, holding both a degree and license as an architect. She practiced in that field for nearly a decade, showcasing her strong management skills and client-centric approach to design. Her passion for managing building projects as they come to life and ensure both client satisfaction and efficient processes led her to transition into the construction industry, which proved to be a natural fit. In her construction career, Bouthillette has dedicated herself to continuous learning and professional development. She has undergone extensive training, including certifications, and has actively collaborated with organizations like the Design Build Institute of America (DBIA). Bouthillette’s commitment to DBIA is especially noteworthy, as she is not only pursuing DBIA practitioner certification but has also presented at their national conference.
One of the most pressing issues in the industry, Bouthillette believes, is the industry’s risk of inefficiency and outdated processes. “I think that a lot of [us] are leaning much more into autonomy and opportunities in tech,” she said. “But I think that the industry on the whole has a lot of inefficient processes that make things costly.”
She also sees a positive transformation within the industry, particularly in embracing integrated design-build approaches, with architects collaborating more closely with contractors, resulting in more efficient and cost-effective projects. “I think it is certainly more prevalent over here on the West Coast,” she observed. “But it is happening across the industry. Certain market sectors, notably health care and higher education, are embracing it.”
Additionally, Bouthillette points out the hope for even wider diversity within the construction industry: “I think having different ideas in the room based on background changes everything. I’ve seen that happen, and it is so powerful. I hope that we continue to do that.”
As a woman in a traditionally male-centric industry, Bouthillette confronts microaggressions head-on, ensuring she is recognized for her role and extensive expertise. Beyond her own experiences, Bouthillette actively supports the growth of women in construction by mentoring and providing guidance to younger female professionals within her company. “I am the only female project manager in our Seattle location,” she regaled, describing the demographics and as such, the opportunities to mentor other women learning similar positions. “I try to not just mentor but give them space to talk. It is really cool to be able to foster that [professional] growth and talk to them about things that I was wondering about when I was in their role.”
Outside of her expansive and evolving career, Bouthillette is an avid outdoors enthusiast. Her love for the outdoors aligns with her passion for the construction industry, where she gets to spend time outside on actual jobsites and in the field. She enjoys biking, hiking, and spending quality time with her two-year-old son and her husband.
Bouthillette is exceptionally passionate about advocating for oneself in scenarios of marginalization, noting the importance of the care and stewardship women must have for themselves. “In terms of advice that I would give people, it is ‘be powerful,’” she said. “Speak with conviction. Don’t marginalize yourself further by saying, ‘Well, I’m not sure, I don’t know,’ when you do know.” The confidence Bouthillette undoubtedly inspires and instills in the generations of women and younger associates who have the privilege to work alongside her will certainly ripple out for the better.