International Women's Day is an annual celebration of women's social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. This year's campaign theme is 'Choose To Challenge - A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change'.

Reyam Al Jadder, quality controls superintendent at our Serbian motorway project, has certainly lived up to the theme of ‘challenge’ during her career with Bechtel. The 23-year-old civil engineer has risen in two short years to lead a team of male construction colleagues at Muscat International Airport on mission-critical milestones, and is currently one of just four women based at the project site in Serbia.  

Here is Reyam’s story:  

Reyam, an Iraqi national, started her Bechtel career with an internship at Muscat airport whilst she was studying civil engineering in Oman.  After graduating she joined the airport team as a Field Civil Engineer.

“My father is a civil engineer and from an early age, I’ve been inspired to follow his path. Both my parents were incredibly supportive of me and my three sisters to be educated and follow our dreams, regardless of what was happening around us and what we experienced during the war in Iraq. This helped me become the independent Muslim female I am” says Reyam.  

On Muscat, Reyam soon learned that she was passionate about construction and felt that working on the project site was more suited to her skills and personality. She asked to move roles but was initially told this wasn’t something a woman could do. Undaunted by this challenge she decided to learn more about the job she aspired to do – and set about upskilling herself as well as talking to her colleagues to find out more. This led to Reyam progressing working her way into different roles and finally leading an all-male construction team including subcontractors, delivering critical milestones for what was at the time the largest project in the history of the Sultanate of Oman.

“It was an exciting time for the airport with so many critical milestones and the team was racing against the clock. I was particularly proud of the work we achieved to change the stones and the terrazzo floor to epoxy floor paint whilst the airport was operational. This involved working very closely with the client, airport operator, critical stakeholders and procedures to ensure minimum passenger disruption. The sheer scale of this work was a huge challenge.

“Probably one of the most rewarding aspects at the time was hearing my male colleagues talk about the different perspectives having a female on the team gave them - and in a good way. When I think about the initial reaction I had to wanting to take on that role, I am so pleased to have been able to change perceptions of what women can do on a construction site,” adds Reyam. 

Moving to 2020, Reyam embraced another challenge to develop her Bechtel career and took on the role of quality controls superintendent at our Serbian Morava Corridor motorway project. She is currently based at the project camp in Kruševac. A different country, culture, climate, and also religion is now challenging her perceptions and helping her see things differently.

For example, being the only Muslim female from the Middle East on camp has its challenges, but Reyam has embraced these - including adopting a vegetarian diet something she says she would never have considered working in the Gulf! “I am particularly enjoying a pizza Margherita - it’s so delicious and sure I’ll now be a lifelong fan,” she says.     

Reyam is also tremendously grateful to her colleagues who are supporting her in this different environment. She reflects: “Being a female in construction is an amazing career choice, so my advice to all the women in this industry, or who are even curious about this industry, is to never give up and continually remember that what you can do is not defined by your gender. I am so lucky to have had this experience so far with Bechtel and look forward to seeing what new adventures this career will bring.”