Women in Tunneling

Dawn Dobson - October 2019's #WomenWhoTunnel

By Molly Burford posted 10-09-2019 01:32 PM

Each month, Women In Tunneling will feature an exemplary female member of the tunneling industry. For October 2019, this particular trailblazer is Dawn Dobson, business development manager at Barnard Construction Company, Inc.! Read our interview with Wilson below all about her involvement in the industry, how she got started, and what we can do to bring more women into this exciting field. 

1. What is your actual involvement in the tunneling business?

Currently, I’m the business development manager for the underground group at Barnard Construction Company, Inc. I meet and keep in touch with clients and engineering firms not only to discuss upcoming projects but, also to provide input and feedback on any issues that they might be considering during the early stages of a program. I’m responsible for identifying future projects; building relationships with and recommending partners for teaming; managing project pursuits through the prequalification; and determining initial rough cost estimates. I attend all of the North American conferences and many seminars for both tunneling and mining.

2. How have you been introduced to tunnel industry?

I actually started my career in an underground coal mine after earning a BS in Mining Engineering from Montana Tech in Butte. I worked in that industry for nearly six years prior to learning about an opportunity in the tunneling industry from a professor, Tom Finch. I went to work for Kiewit in their Underground District shortly thereafter and over the course of 15 years I was assigned to several large projects in positions ranging from project controls to management.

3. What do you think women can bring to this business?

Naturally, women bring a different perspective to any business and can provide novel solutions to consider when evaluating risks and issues. Not only are women great at multitasking and organization, but also relationship-building and collaboration.

4. Do you think that the presence of women changes a tunneling work environment? Did you have different experiences in different countries?

A key factor that the presence of women can change in a tunneling work environment is to instill a common understanding of respect for everyone involved in a project. It starts with respecting oneself and not being afraid to approach others with more experience in order to learn from them and gain their trust and respect.

5. Even if the number of women has been increasing over the years, the tunneling industry is still considered a male oriented environment. What can be done in your opinion to bring awareness of this business to a larger number of women?

When women see that other women are succeeding in male oriented environments, it encourages them to pursue that industry, including tunneling. The inclusion of experienced and qualified women on industry committees and to chair conference events is valuable. Also, if companies included women in their recruiting efforts then young women would see that there are opportunities for them in the tunneling industry.