Updates

BJC and Saint Luke’s Officially Combine as BJC Health System

Women in Construction

March 2022 - When you think of an industry dominated by men, construction might be one of the first that comes to mind. The Campus Renewal Project is doing its part to change that. Dozens of women, from architects and engineers, to carpenters and project managers, are setting an example for a more diverse future.

In celebration of International Women’s Day and Women in Construction Week, we’d like to introduce you to some of the BJC women of Campus Renewal.

Donna Ware, BJC Executive Director, Planning & Design

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Donna has a master of architecture (MArch) degree and has worked in her current field for nearly 25 years. Having led the planning and design teams for Campus Renewal Phase 1 (Barnes-Jewish Parkview Tower and St. Louis Children’s Hospital expansion, which opened in early 2018) and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, which opened in late 2019, Donna lends her expertise to the next phase of Campus Renewal.

What drew you to healthcare?

When pursuing my graduate degree, I had a significant interest in how the built environment could impact people’s behavior.  My first job after college, I was put on a healthcare project and the light bulb went off – I recognized there was no greater way to impact peoples’ lives through architecture than in the area of healthcare.

How have you seen the industry evolve since you’ve been in it? More diversity, more women?  

Yes – definitely more women in the field of architecture now than when I started.  Also, I have seen progress in how people react when I tell them I am an architect.

How do you feel a diverse workforce impacts a project?

Diversity in design professionals is critical. We can only design based off our personal experiences but no one else has the same experiences as me.  Diversity amongst design professionals brings diverse design solutions to create environments that can make more people feel welcome and supported in our projects.

Are you involved in any professional groups?

I am a local board member for the ACE Mentor Program, which focuses on exposing more young people, minorities and women, to the fields of architecture, construction and engineering.  If we are going to expect more diversity in these professions, we need to find ways to create a more diverse candidate pool.

Steph Kroener, BJC Senior Activation Manager

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Steph is a registered nurse, with a bachelor of science in nursing. Having extensive nursing and management experience at St. Louis Children’s Hospital for more than 30 years, Steph joined Campus Renewal nine years ago and co-leads the activation efforts for the project, serving as a liaison between hospital departments and the design-build team.

Why did you decide to become a nurse?

When I graduated in the 70s from a small town high school, girls were encouraged to go into nursing or teaching. I knew right away I wanted to help people. I was the first in my family to enter nursing profession. Today, my sister and two nieces are all working in different types of nursing care.

If you’ve changed careers, why?

During nursing school, I was assigned in my pediatric rotation to the neuro/neurosurgery floor in St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Then I knew I wanted to work in pediatrics. That was 42 years ago.  

After becoming a manager 29 years ago, I helped moved patients from an old building to the current site of the main Children’s Hospital. As the building grew, and as units moved, I got more involved in design and in improvement process committees, interacting with staff from all areas. When the Children’s Hospital expansion was being discussed in 2012, I applied for the activation position to be a liaison for all staff and to share their input with the project team and designers.

How have you seen the industry evolve since you’ve been in it?

There is so much more diversity and more women in design and construction. In my nine years, I think there is more respect for what women have to offer. Our team has a focus to ensure that we are looking for opportunities for all women and minorities in the workplace to have a seat at the table.

How do you feel having a diverse workforce improves the project?

Diversity brings new and different ideas to the table. Our goal is always to improve what we are designing and building for the patients, and that won’t happen if there's no diversity of ideas and backgrounds.

Would you encourage more women to get into these fields? If so, why?

Of course! I presented at my kids’ high school because I knew they thought nursing school led to a very defined job. I wanted to share that they can take the skills they learn and apply them to other fields, like design and construction. I can help translate the patient, family and staff experience to improve design and how the final product affects them. Management skills have helped me guide hospital staff to problem solve during design and to find the positive when it might not turn out exactly as they wanted.

What is your hope for the future of women in the planning, design and construction industry?

That all members of the construction team continue to show respect and inclusion for ideas women bring to the project and that as an equal partner, we are relied upon as a resource and advisor.

Tina Menne, BJC Senior Activation Manager

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Tina has a master of healthcare administration (MHA) and has worked in her current position for about one year. With extensive health care management experience with BJC Medical Group for more than 15 years, Tina joined the Campus Renewal Project in 2021 and serves as one of the primary liaisons between hospital departments and the design-build team.

Why did you pursue that degree?

I have a love for helping others. I want to make sure we can provide care to all those whose need it. 

If you’ve changed careers, why? 

My move to PD&C with BJC will allow me to bring new technologies. advancements in care to those we need to reach. ​

What drew you to planning, design and construction field and why?

I want to make changes to how and where we deliver healthcare to those in need.  

How do you feel having a diverse workforce improves the project?

It allows for us to see the whole picture and understand the different cultures we have in the community we take care of. We are changing the way health care is delivered and how we focus on caring for and healing each other. 

Are you involved in any women’s professional groups?

I am a member of the  BJC Women's Connection Group.

Have you mentored anyone during your career? 

In my previous roles, I have mentored my staff over the years encouraging them to grow in their education and careers with BJC. 

What is your hope for the future of women in the planning, design and construction industry?

For the growth of our team to have representation from all races and genders.

Chrissi Tarantola, BJC Financial Project Manager

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Chrissi has a bachelor of science in accounting and a master of business administration (MBA). She also has a certified professional accountant (CPA) license and a project management professional (PMP) certification.

Why did you pursue that degree?

I enjoy stories and that is exactly what the financial data tell you. You see firsthand the who, what, when, where, how and why. This degree has allowed me to be a lifelong learner as well. To report financially what is happening, you need to understand the specific industry you are working in. Everything has an impact on the financials.

How many years have you been in your current field of work?

I have been working in health care accounting/finance roles for 13+ years.

What drew you to planning, design and construction field and why?

I love seeing how the strategic vision of BJC is literally built. 

How do you feel having a diverse workforce improves the project?

When everyone is represented and feels comfortable speaking up, new and better ways are created for all current and future stakeholders.    

Would you encourage more women to get into these fields? If so, why?

Yes, I would encourage more women to get into these fields. There’s so much untapped opportunity out there right now.

Are you involved in any women’s professional groups?

I participate in BJC’s Women’s Connection Group.

Has anyone mentored you during your career? If so, who, and what has been the best thing about being mentored?

I have not been formally mentored, but I have had the opportunity to work side by side with some passionate leaders that have become models for how I hope to be as a co-worker and leader.  The best thing about being mentored is building relationships and gaining self confidence in the fact that we are all not so different. 

What is your hope for the future of women in the planning, design and construction industry?

I hope that women in this industry continue to push forward and upward. I hope as they move forward, they build each other up and as they move upward, they bring others along for the ride.

Kathy Bretsch, Project Communications

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Kathy has a bachelors degree in journalism and an MBA. Kathy joined BJC Planning, Design & Construction in 1997 and has led the communications efforts for many of BJC’s large construction projects, including the construction of the Center for Advanced Medicine (opened in 2002), Barnes-Jewish Parkview Tower and St. Louis Children’s Hospital expansion (opened in 2018) and the new Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital (opened in 2019).

Why did you pursue a journalism degree?

I’m curious, and that’s essential to journalism and writing. I was always able to put thoughts and sentences together, first in my head, and then on paper. I figured I could turn that into a career. Once I took my first journalism class, I knew that writing was my calling. The MBA came a few years into my career when I wanted to expand my business acumen. 

How many years have you been in your current field of work?

I joined BJC Planning, Design and Construction in 1997. For 15 of my 25 years at BJC, I've told stories about construction and the people who build BJC hospitals.

What drew you to planning, design and construction field and why?

My curiosity. Construction is fun to watch – who doesn’t like to watch demolition or new building rising from the ground and wonder how it all comes together! I quickly learned there is so much more to construction than meets the eye. It’s a fascinating and evolving field, and one in which I continue to learn.

How have you seen the industry evolve since you’ve been in it? More diversity, more women?

Absolutely. There were few women 25 years ago, especially in leadership roles and in the trades. There is much greater diversity among the professionals both in the office and on the construction site. It’s encouraging to see so many female and minority architects, engineers, project managers and tradespeople.    

How do you feel having a diverse workforce improves the project?

If everyone thought the same, or had the same perspectives and backgrounds, wouldn’t this world be boring? Smart minds that don’t always agree, that can compromise, and that can appreciate the validity of other perspectives can work together to create some wonderful things.

What is your hope for the future of women in the planning, design and construction industry?

I know it’s hard for young people to picture themselves in a career, especially if they have zero exposure or experience with it. I hope young women are introduced to the possibilities and realize what tremendous opportunities there in whatever field they choose.

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