Women Who Build: Celebrating Advancements and Championing Growth

March 12, 2020

Did you know, at a national level, women make up 10.3% of the construction industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics? At Mortenson in Phoenix, women make up 32% of our local team members, a result of our concentrated efforts to diversify our workforce.

Mortenson recently celebrated Women in Construction (WIC) Week, March 1-7, 2020. Observed at a national level, WIC Week highlights women as an important component of the construction industry and brings awareness to opportunities available for women throughout the industry.

For our team in Phoenix, this week was celebrated with reflection and anticipation; reflecting on how far the industry has come, assessing the current state and eagerly forecasting and moving towards a positive direction of the future.

Throughout the week, we highlighted some of our women leaders, shown below, and reflected on national statistics to drive conversation around educating our community about the benefits of working in construction, such as the gender pay gap is only 1% in construction compared to the nationwide pay gap of 19% across all industries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and how we can improve on attracting additional diverse leaders of all types.

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(From left to right) Rebecca Masters, Karla Yanni and Lisa York

Lisa York, projective executive, remembers when she was one of the few women in her field. Today, she's using what she learned from her mentors to pave the way for others.

“I was one of five females in my graduating class in Construction Management at Arizona State University, and now I have some project teams with more women than men. For me, today, I have a responsibility to mentor and share my experiences with other women in construction that are just starting their career journeys – especially on things that are unique to women in the industry.”

Our team also observed WIC Week by hosting Kim Ryder, vice president of real estate for Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona, for a team member discussion about WIC Week principles. Mortenson’s Building Inclusion and Diversity (BID) Group organized the event and thoughtfully designed breakout sessions which allowed staff to engage in dialogue regarding mentorship, inclusion, and equality in the workplace These themes set the stage for Ryder to open up about her experiences including her career journey, achievements and obstacles in the industry, as well as share advice with those that may be facing similar situations.

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Photos from the team’s event with Kim Ryder during WIC Week

Ryder’s journey has taken her from retail manager to vice president and allowed her to work with many types of people and grow with the organization from 300 employees to 3,600 employees.

“It’s really important for me that new team members feel immediately included and a part of the culture, the organization, the family and the team. I know how I have felt at different times when I’m not included. You have to remind yourself how it felt, as I’m sure everyone has felt excluded at one time or another. It doesn’t feel very good. So, it’s important to avoid that, especially for a new person.”

In her discussion segment with Katie Davison, Mortenson’s marketing manager and BID co-chair, Ryder continually mentioned theĀ­ importance she places on remembering it’s okay to not always say yes, balancing your priorities at work and in your personal life, in addition to empowering team members through delegation and communication; to ensure each members’ voice is heard. Kim highlighted her roundtable method, as she calls it “Table Talks,” for team meetings, which starts with a prompt and allows each member to give their opinion. Ryder emphasized how important it is that every team member be given the opportunity to contribute and bring their perspective to the table. In addition to this application, Ryder made a point to use time and resources to foster healthy work relationships.

“When we prioritize and invest in team building activities, we see behavioral returns. We definitely start to see a more supporting and understanding environment. Although it’s super easy to not prioritize these activities, our work environment has become so much more valuable and richer because of them. You can’t afford not to make that investment.”

Diversity and inclusion are essential to Mortenson’s values and continued success. WIC Week provides an opportunity each year to evaluate how inclusion and diversity can be further promoted, at both an individual and organizational level, as well as across the entire construction industry. While there is always room to improve, Mortenson is proud to contribute to an increasingly more diverse and inclusive construction industry.