Three women build a data center of a different color

A Data Center of a Different Color
By Jill Devine 

Like many employees who work closely, Alaina Reeverts, Gabrielle Bishop and Lindsay Smith have become friends. 

After work, they like to hang out, grabbing dinner, volunteering or even running together in an occasional 5K or half marathon. When Monday rolls around, however, they gear up – with boots, safety vests, and hard hats – and get back to business. 

That’s right – boots, vests, hard hats. Together, Reeverts, Bishop and Smith comprise a rare find in the global workforce: an all-female construction management team. The crown jewel of their collaboration is right here in Ashburn, an Equinix data center named DC21. The final phase of the $179 million project was completed in 2023.

The 156,000-square-foot building at Loudoun County Parkway and Waxpool Road is perhaps best known as being the data center that “lights up.” Exterior lighting projects various colors on the facade to mark holidays and community events. 

But behind the bright colors is the story of one of the first data centers built under the direction of an all-female construction management team, an anomaly in a predominantly male industry. 

“I have not seen that before, where our particular roles, the three or four main roles, are led solely by and entrusted to women, so we are kind of at the forefront of the movement for diversity and inclusion within this industry,” said Bishop, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing coordinator for DPR Construction. 

Bishop, who lives in Leesburg, shared construction management responsibilities for DC21 with Smith, a DPR project manager who lives in Arlington, and Reeverts, Equinix’s senior construction manager. Reeverts lives in Illinois but travels regularly to work on-site in Ashburn. 

Women constitute only 9.9% of the construction workforce in the United States. Worldwide, only 8% of the data center workforce is female, and 25% of data center projects involve no women in design or construction. 

Buddy Rizer, executive director for Loudoun County’s Department of Economic Development, points to DC21 as a hallmark of forward-thinking.

“Equinix has modeled the fact that leadership is generated from within, not by how you look or where you come from,” he said. “This project is a great testament to this construction team, which has successfully executed on a complex build in the world’s largest data center market.”


Reeverts, Bishop and Smith all agree – there are unlimited opportunities in construction for women, but the trick is finding a path. 

Reeverts initially dreamed of being an architect, but her high school drafting teacher suggested a career in construction management. 

“I took a class at a local junior college and then stuck with construction management all the way through graduation from Illinois State University,” she said. “My first job out of college was at a data center, and I’ve been in mission-critical construction ever since.” 

Bishop grew up on a farm near Suffolk in southeastern Virginia and always wanted to study engineering, but a dean at Virginia Tech introduced her to construction management. “I didn’t even know it was an option, but this dean spoke about the field with such passion that it really drew me in,” said Bishop, who graduated with a degree in construction engineering and management. 

Smith, originally from Scranton, Pa., earned a degree in architectural engineering at Penn State University.

“I wasn’t planning on construction at all. It wasn’t a curriculum option I was aware of until my fourth year of a five-year program,” she said. “I was pretty far through the program, but it wasn’t feeling like the right fit. Then I tried an internship in construction management, and it just clicked. I fell into it by chance, but construction management was right for me.” 

Reeverts said women need to be exposed to opportunities. “It can be intimidating venturing into a world where mechanical and electrical systems are the heart and soul of what you are building, so we need to help more women get comfortable with the idea that they can do this.” 

Smith noted that early exposure is key. “My family works in the medical field, so there was a total lack of awareness of what I could do in construction,” she said. “There are so many opportunities, but it’s hard to discover them if you don’t have a specific interest at an early age.  Starting in high school, we should help students learn about those opportunities.”


The trio believes their friendship strengthened their work relationship and performance, especially during the pandemic, when they were challenged by equipment and material delays. The team developed procedures that have since become company models for other data center projects, including a detailed “scorecard” that kept project stakeholders in constant communication and an “a la carte” menu that offered multiple solutions to specific situations, ranked by cost and risk. 

“Any woman in this industry is going to feel at some point that there’s just more for them to prove,” Bishop said. “Personally, before I speak up at meetings, I ensure that I’m 100% correct and that I have the information to back up my answers. There’s this underlying pressure to feel like you can never be wrong and have that stigma pressed back on you. But as relationships build, so does trust. Do I feel that now? No, but it was hard when I first started.”

Reeverts said previously it was rare to work with other women on projects. “It’s becoming more common, but we need to work on getting more to join us.”  

Building DC21 was an experience the women say they will never forget.

“I’ve worked on other projects, but any time I go on-site and work with Gabby and Lindsay, it’s like a breath of fresh air,” Reeverts said.

“We each brought different strengths to the job to make it successful,” Bishop said. “I’m proud to be part of this strong female leadership team, but what is truly significant is that we are good at our jobs. We are highly skilled, experienced and resilient experts who also happen to be women.”


In addition to breaking gender stereotypes, the Equinix data center in Ashburn is also more “colorful” than the scores of other data centers in our area. In September, Equinix flipped the switch for DC21’s unique exterior lighting, which illuminates the building in various bright colors.

Several executives with the company came up with the idea after being inspired by the lights at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. 

There are 60 lights on the west and south facades of the Equinix building. They are LED and emit red, green and blue light, which can be combined to display the full color spectrum.

The exterior lighting is staggered in two rows, with the row closer to the building a narrow uplight, and the row farther away a wider flood light, said Michelle Lindeman, a company spokesperson. “The variation in lighting size makes different visual effects and patterns possible.”

In 2024, plans call for the exterior to be lighted in color on 102 days. On other days, white security lights illuminate the building.

There’s no mechanism for local residents to request color schemes, although Lindeman said this could happen in the future. At this time, the “scenes” – as they are called – are programmed for holidays, area sports teams and local high schools.

The process to install the lights started in 2020, and the builders had to get a special exception from the county.  

“It was a long process getting it approved by the county, but it’s really nice to see when you drive by,” said Alaina Reeverts, Equinix’s senior construction manager.

Jill Devine is a freelance writer and former magazine editor from Loudoun County who writes for a variety of Virginia publications.