Earning the view from the top

For four north country women who work in traditionally male-dominated fields, success means hard work and striking the right balance.

Pamela Beyor is chairwoman of the board of directors at Bernier, Carr and Associates. Photo by Justin Sorensen/NNY Business.

North country women have made significant strides in traditionally male-dominated fields over the years, but there continues to be mixed opinions about equality in the workplace.

Some female business professionals agreed that traits more common in women, such as being compassionate, a good listener and a fair mediator, can often put them at an advantage in the workplace.

But the issue that often holds women back from “reaching the top” of their profession, such as becoming a partner in a firm, isn’t their male colleagues.

It’s not the clients or customers, either.

Rather, it’s the constant struggle of balancing work and family.

“Although we strive at our firm for work and family balance, the demands of the job can be significant,” said Pamela S. Beyor, chairwoman of the board of directors for Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown. “Being a licensed professional and partner in private practice requires a significant investment of time.”

“Fifty to 60 hours a week is normal,” she added.

Approximately 40 percent of architecture students are women, but it’s estimated that only 13 percent actually practice the profession, which has a long maturity period, Ms. Beyor said.

“Typically success in this profession comes at 50 to 60 years of age,” she noted.

Ms. Beyor said she could not have reached the level of partnership at the firm if not for her family’s support.

During her early years of work, Ms. Beyor was juggling a demanding career with another big commitment.

“I was a single mom, and had the sole responsibility of raising my son,” she said. “I would never have been able to achieve this success if it wasn’t for the support of my parents.”

When her son, Mclean, was younger, “he had a room at my parents’ house” and often stayed overnight if she had meetings or business trips, Ms. Beyor said.

Her parents, Jack and Sue O’Brien, Black River, made it possible for her to work the long hours needed in order to become a partner, she said.

“They were extremely supportive,” she said.

Ms. Beyor earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1985 and a professional license to practice architecture in New York state in 1991.

Earning the view from the top

She joined Bernier, Carr & Associates in 1985 as an assistant project manager and focused her efforts on the development and leadership of the company’s construction management division.

Since that time, she has held numerous positions in the corporation, including chief executive officer from 1997 to 2002 and her current position as chairwoman of the board of directors

Ms. Beyor is one of only two female partners at the firm; the other is architect Mari Cecil. The firm has 13 partners.

“I don’t believe there are fewer opportunities for women to climb the ladder in this business,” she said. “But it’s no different in our business than any other entrepreneur businesses when it comes to the long hours that have to be put into it.”

While the majority of partners in the firm are men, there are numerous jobs throughout the firm that are filled by women, Ms. Beyor said. These include engineers, technical writers, CAD operators, business developers and interior designers.

“There are many different areas of practice within architecture,” she said.

It’s typically women who “tend to bring cooperation and problem-solving skills to the table,” Ms. Beyor said. “Communication in this business is key.”

[Editor’s note: This is a truncated version of this story. For the full version, please see NNY Business in print or subscribe.]

Norah Machia is a freelance writer who lives in Watertown. She is a 20-year veteran journalist and former Watertown Daily Times reporter. Contact her at nemachia@yahoo.com.