receiving station with construction worker

Women Strengthening HDR as a World-Class Firm

Women are the 'Keys to the Future,' and their growth in numbers and contributions to our firm propel our industry toward a more equitable future. We honor the diverse backgrounds and experiences of our women in construction. 

Julie Labonte, P.E., our global water program management director, shares her insight as a woman in construction. As someone who is pivotal in successfully delivering projects and programs to our clients that shape our communities, Julie’s perspective and advice is echoed across the many women surveyed this year in preparation for Women in Construction week. This year's theme, 'Keys to the Future', celebrates the strength and knowledge of women and the vital role they play in shaping the future of the construction industry.

Q. How can women shape the future of the construction industry?

Labonte: Like our male counterparts, women have the transformative potential to shape the construction industry positively. This transformation may involve embracing sustainable practices, spearheading modular construction, championing digital transformation and integrating cutting-edge technologies such as drones, augmented reality and smart construction. 

Simultaneously, by recognizing women’s unique perspectives and strengths, there is an opportunity to leverage these attributes to further influence the industry’s trajectory. For example, women’s instincts can be well-suited to bring greater attention to workers’ safety and well-being. Additionally, women can make a distinctive impact by fostering a culture of collaboration throughout the construction process, reimagining partnering and issues resolution, promoting best practices, and advocating for increased diversity and inclusion.

three women looking at construction plans

Q. When did you know you made the right career choice?

A. I am fortunate to have been professionally fulfilled my entire career. However, when I was entrusted with directing the rebuild of the Hetch Hetchy water system — the engineering masterpiece that conveys pristine water originating in Yosemite National Park to the San Francisco Bay Area — I realized that being at the center of big infrastructure programs is where I belonged. 

Now, 35 years into my professional journey, the excitement and inspiration persist. The realization that our work can shape a better tomorrow for countless individuals continues to drive my passion and dedication.

Julie Labonte talking into a mic in front of a construction site

Q. What advice do you give young women considering a career in construction?

A. To support young women in navigating and excelling in the construction industry, I suggest the following guidance: (1) focus on developing technical skills pertinent to the construction industry; (2) establish and nurture a strong professional network within the industry; (3) cultivate confidence in your abilities and be assertive in pursuing opportunities, while remaining humble and acknowledging that continuous learning is key; and (4) explore various roles to eventually find the area(s) that aligns with your interests and strengths.

Julie Labonte has dedicated the majority of her career to the management of complex water programs across the United States and abroad. She directs our global water program management practice, which includes a broad range of multidisciplinary services that can be adapted to address emerging industry trends and the specific requirements of each water infrastructure program. She thrives on working closely with clients to identify programmatic solutions to their infrastructure needs and provides strategic advice on all aspects of mega-project and program delivery.