Pat Anderson didn’t set out to become a pioneer. In fact, when Pat joined our California team in 1987, her goals were pretty simple—escape Wyoming’s 40 below winters and pursue a new career working with her hands. Three decades later, it’s pretty obvious that fate had something entirely different in store for this groundbreaking woman.
For most, making such a dramatic change would have taken a giant leap of faith, and that’s especially true for women entering an industry significantly less diverse than it is today. But Pat never questioned whether she would belong. Having grown up in a small Wyoming town and worked for a time in the local oil fields, Pat was accustomed to filling so-called traditional male roles.
Not that she ever viewed them that way. “It never bothered me,” says Pat “because those were the main types of jobs we had in my home town.” Pat’s decision may have had just as much to do with daring as destiny. Her brother, who worked for the company at the time, was instrumental in recruiting Pat to enter the building trades. And she hasn’t looked back since.
Hired as a laborer’s helper making $6 an hour, Pat steadily climbed the ranks and would go on to become Balfour Beatty’s first—and for many years only—female superintendent in California. Though Pat certainly made history in this regard, she is best known for her incredible attention to detail, which led her to assuming a QA/QC role in addition to traditional superintendent duties many years ago. “I look at every aspect of a project as if it were my home,” affirms Pat. “It upsets me when I miss something on a punch list,” she adds, her usual, soft-spoken tone infused with an edge of seriousness that lets one know this is not a frequent occurrence.
Pat’s ability to ensure even the most challenging jobs reach the finish line tends to land her in some pretty complex situations. At the North Island Bachelor Enlisted Quarters, for example, Pat was brought in when the project was three months behind. Pat played an instrumental role in redeveloping the schedule, and together, the team overcame the odds to finish on time. In many instances, Pat is called upon to finish out a job as the only person remaining on-site. It’s isolated and often tedious work, but Pat never leaves a project until she’s satisfied that every square foot meets her impeccable standards.
It’s a quality that has made Pat especially well-suited to work on projects for the U.S. military. At the Close Quarters Combat Training Facility, Pat was part of the team that constructed a compound nearly identical to the one depicted in Zero Dark Thirty—a film that dramatizes the U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. While Pat enjoys every project she builds, those that benefit our men and women in uniform are especially close to her heart. “I get a lot of satisfaction from knowing I helped enrich the lives of our military,” she says.
Pat’s come a long way since 1987, and thanks to women like her who paved a path forward, so has the construction industry. Today, Balfour Beatty has three women across California serving in superintendent roles, one of whom Pat helped encourage to pursue the field track. Her advice to women considering construction for a career? “I believe anybody can make it as long as they’re willing to continuously learn. You can’t think you know everything about this business. I learn something new every day.”
With 30 years behind her and endless possibilities in store, Pat has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. “I’ve been really lucky,” says Pat. “There are a lot of ups and downs in this industry, but I’ve worked steady my whole career. I’ll work as long as they want me to.” Pat Anderson may not have intended to become an agent of change in the construction industry, but there’s little doubt she did—perhaps as much by removing barriers to success for future generations as much as refusing to accept any to her own. What a profound impact for a woman to make.