Celebrating Women in Construction Week with Rebecca Bentley
From early on, Rebecca Bentley, PE, had an interest in architecture. In high school, her father, who worked in construction, would hire Rebecca to provide drafting services for his fire protection plans. This allowed Rebecca to witness firsthand how designs on paper transferred to practical construction. Rebecca has never been afraid of trying new things or tackling new challenges and recalls how her father encouraged her to do so while growing up. Much like her father, a teacher in high school took notice of her interest in architecture. Describing structural engineering as the architecture you do not see inside the building that keeps it standing, Rebecca’s teacher encouraged her to consider civil engineering – a field she had never considered until the suggestion of her teacher.
Rebecca attended Michigan Technological University, earning her BS in Civil Engineering. Over the summers when she was still a student, Rebecca went door to door of civil engineering firms in her local area, handing out resumes to land either a summer job or a co-op position. Eventually, she was hired for a summer position that transitioned to a co-op position at a geotechnical firm. She spent two more summers there and learned that she especially enjoyed the geotechnical specialty within civil engineering.
Since college, Rebecca has worked her way up through several geotechnical engineering roles, each with increasing project management responsibility, technical challenges, and people management responsibilities. Now at PEA Group, as a Senior Geotechnical Project Manager, Rebecca helps to lead the geotechnical group of 20 technicians and engineers. She is responsible for managing geotechnical and construction materials testing projects and provides engineering design and recommendations for all earth-related aspects of construction from foundations to pavements to slope stability, earth retention, concrete, soil, masonry, asphalt, and more.
Rebecca mentors staff engineers and the team members who directly report to her. In addition to mentoring her team, Rebecca has judged for the virtual cities, essay, and competition day presentations for the Future City Competition for the past eight years, including in January 2020. She began judging after a call for volunteers through the Engineering Society of Detroit, who hosts the annual competition for junior high students throughout the state and has been judging all three phases of the competition over the past few years.
Rebecca enjoys the variety of her position and the variety encountered within the field of geotechnical engineering. She works across several market sectors including infrastructure, retail, residential, commercial, industrial, and energy. In one week, she may be designing foundations for a drainage culvert, designing retaining walls for a residential development, designing pavements for an industrial plant, providing recommendations for ground improvement, deep foundations, or subgrade stabilization.
Rebecca appreciates tackling new technical challenges and working with her team to succeed in helping their clients, finding that developing relationships with clients with the goal of being their expert when they need geotechnical help is rewarding. But what she finds most rewarding is working with a team that is passionate about providing high-quality outcomes. In fact, one of the things that are most motivational for Rebecca is working with the PEA Group team. Rebecca believes that, as a firm, “we thrive on improving the communities around us through the work that we do.” Rebecca states that the geotechnical group is a team that works hard for their clients, as well as hard for each other. “Being part of a team that shows up for each other and shows up for our clients is a great feeling and motivation.”
In addition to her team, Rebecca is greatly motivated by the projects she works on that have a significant impact on the community. For her, personally, the Ruth Ellis Center is one such project as it stands out as a great resource for LGBTQ youth struggling in the Detroit area.
Rebecca’s journey to Senior Geotechnical Project Manager has not always been easy, stating “I think women in construction always need to work a bit harder than their male counterparts to earn the same respect from clients and peers.” While Rebecca has seen change over the last 20+ years in the industry, she still believes most people consider construction careers as belonging solely to men. While that may be a common sentiment, Rebecca does not want it to deter women from entering the field and believes there are many great resources available such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Michigan chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), as well.
When asked what advice Rebecca would give to other women considering pursuing a career in construction, she states “you belong in any field you are passionate about. I encourage you to work hard, learn from those around you, and be confident in who you are and what you are doing. Most of all, as your career advances, take your seat at the table and own that you belong there.” As for Rebecca, she will continue learning and creating an example for women in construction working their way up.
About Women in Construction Week
The focus of Women in Construction (WIC) Week is to highlight women as a viable component of the construction industry. WIC Week also provides an occasion for NAWIC’s thousands of members across the country to raise awareness of the opportunities available for women in the construction industry and to emphasize the growing role of women in the industry. It is also a time for local chapters to give back to their communities. This week celebrates women in the industry including builders, engineers, surveyors, project management, administration, and leadership.