Barbara Res is a licensed Attorney and Professional Engineer. In her 40 year career she has
faced and overcome sexual harassment, intimidation and discrimination. In her most widely
known role she worked directly for current President of the United States, Donald Trump as
Executive Vice President in charge of Development overseeing the construction of The
Trump Tower in New York.
Our latest feature is a Q&A with Barbara as she reflects on her struggles being a woman in her diverse and long career.
Why is #YesSheCan important to you?
Because sexism still exists and, in some ways, is having a resurgence such as the backlash to
#MeToo. Young women have to constantly be reminded of two things:
1. That they are not alone in their struggle
2. That women can achieve anything
#YesSheCan inspires self confidence. Every woman does not need to be chairman of the
board but every woman needs to believe in herself and have to opportunity to make choices
and not have them forced upon her. This is what #YesSheCan is about.
What barriers have you faced in your career?
Where do I start? In high school, where I had the highest math grades in my class and my
guidance teacher tells me to become a teacher. In college when a professor goes into his
next class after mine and says, oh thank god there are no women in this class, I hate having
women. On the construction site where women are banned the day after I visit. When I am
refused a specific promotion which involves me moving to a jobsite because I am a woman.
When I am sexually harassed by my mentor. When as a vice-president, I am asked if there is
a man to talk to instead of me. So many examples of sexual harassment, intimidation and
What motivated you to keep going?
Hard to say. I just kept my head down and rolled with the punches. I think I believed I could
not quit because I never quit. I also didn’t want to disappoint my mother.
What do you think we need to do to break down barriers in the work place?
Cultural change. Everywhere. From toddlerhood to old age. Things are beginning to happen
in the probably most influencing medium of all, commercials and adverts. Less bikinis and
more fathers doing household chores. Do these ads change society or does society dictate
them? In my opinion it’s a little of both. But affirmative steps need to be taken in the home,
first and then the classroom. It is extremely hard to change the culture and norms surrounding female stereotypes in society. We need to think about practical solutions to get
the right women into the right roles.
I’m American and there is a lot to do here, maybe we still need to set minimum requirement for women’s participation in certain roles. It has worked for minorities, at least In union construction in the US. We’re seeing it in Europe with numbers of females on corporate boards. Having strong, positive role models for the rest of society to see and look up to is another great thing. If you look at Congress in the US Government the amount of women is the highest it has ever been, Most of them have children and work in very diverse fields such as nursing and engineering. This will help enormously because these woman will not only legislate, they will lead by example and show the next generation of girls and women that they can aspire to be anything they want to be.
What do you say to male colleagues about equality?
I don’t say as much as I demonstrate that I am their equal. I have been talking politics a lot
lately and I stress the achievements of women. It’s important to pick your spots about as
and when to talk, or educate, about equality and diversity.
What positives are there about being a female in your role?
It has never been an advantage for me, not in my field. What’s great is that I know I have
changed men’s minds about women in construction. I have inspired and given support to
women starting out. I have taught all types and ages of women how to maintain their self
esteem as they navigate the waters of discrimination and harassment.
How do you feel about being a positive role model?
It is incredibly awarding. I speak a lot and afterwards there are hugs and often, tears. I
know that in my small way I am making a contribution and changing lives.
Were you inspired by reading Barbara's Q&A? What great insight she has on matters in both the US and Europe. If you enjoyed reading about women who have made a difference then why not read Baroness Sue Campbell's post?