United Rentals’ district tool manager sees endless opportunities for women in the industry.
A brief stint in a classroom convinced Brett Rice Henderson that teaching wasn’t the right career for her. Instead, she found the fulfillment she was looking for in construction.
“I love the construction industry,” she said. “I’m so passionate about it. It is fascinating, and there are endless opportunities for women.”
Henderson’s introduction to construction was an inside sales job at a building supply company. In 2014 she joined United Rentals’ sales development program and later became a sales associate and then a territory manager. Now, as United Rentals’ district tool manager for Atlanta and West Georgia — one of the company’s three female district tool managers — Henderson uses her expertise to help customers.
“Tools is a really unique piece of our business. It provides us the opportunity to really dive into our customer’s business and to have some in-depth conversations about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it…It’s a lot of planning, of high-level conversations.” Learning about customers’ goals and initiatives helps her provide valuable solutions.
Active listening and not over-promising are essential to the process. “Customers trust me, they know that I have their best interests at stake always,” she added.
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry hasn’t presented any obstacles for Henderson. “There are many opportunities for you to set your goals high and achieve them,” she said. The culture at United Rentals has helped.
“I’ve had great leadership who have taken a stake in my career and provided support and mentorship,” said Henderson. Another boost came from Women United, an employee resource group designed to enhance and promote the success of women in the company.
“United Rentals understands the importance of inclusion and diversity and of having the unique perspectives that women bring to the industry. It makes us stronger collectively,” she said.
Henderson has two words of advice for women considering a career in construction: Do it. “I would encourage them to seek out a mentor and have some discussions with them about the opportunities that they face and the challenges they’ve been through,” she said.
"United Rentals understands the importance of inclusion and diversity and of having the unique perspectives that women bring to the industry. It makes us stronger collectively."
Women need to look both inside and outside their own companies for opportunities to grow their careers, Henderson noted. She’s taken her own advice and is currently president of the Atlanta chapter of National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC).
“Our goal is to promote the success of women, to create awareness, and also to provide them with professional develop opportunities,” she said. The chapter offers seminars, lectures, technical training and training certificates that can help members take their careers to the next level.
“NAWIC also provides our members with opportunities not only to connect with other women in the industry but to make business connections that can promote their own companies’ growth,” she added.
NAWIC’s Atlanta chapter is expanding rapidly. Its members represent many different roles in the construction industry, including sales, project management, law and insurance. “We have created excitement around the organization. We’ve got a really diverse group there, and we can wrap our arms around the industry as a whole,” Henderson said.
Through her work with United Rentals and with NAWIC, Henderson is fulfilling her desire to make a difference. “I want to be able to mentor the next generation of female leadership so that we can have women and people in general continuing to make the construction industry thrive and grow.”
Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.