Celebrating National Women in Construction Week March 6-10
Some members of Mortenson's Building Inclusion and Diversity (BID) Group, with Anne Loehr. Left to right: Daryn Giddings, Karla Moya, Tammy Carr, Anne Loehr, Joanna Estes, Cherilyn McCabe
Mortenson celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 with a workshop on “Advancing an Inclusive Environment,” led by nationally acclaimed speaker and author Anne Loehr. To kick things off, Tammy Miller, CEO of border States Electric, shared a few words on why the topic of diversity and inclusion is important to our industry, as well as the need to reach out to a younger audience to show them career opportunities within the construction industry.
Loehr provided a snapshot of the workforce outlook, taking into consideration generational trends. The group learned about the difference between diversity, a condition of having or being composed of differing elements, and inclusion, including different types of people, opinions and perspectives in a group or organization. Loehr also described what a bias is and how it can influence language and processes – but that we can take steps to avoid letting these biases affect our reactions and decisions. She clarified that it is when we recognize that we have room for improvement, we can take the steps necessary to grow.
This event was made possible by sponsorships from our trade and design partners including Border States Electric, Roofing Southwest, MKB, Delta, Dibble Engineering, IES, PCI, ReSource Arizona, Secon Electric, and Smith Group JJR.
The Background: Advancing Opportunities for Women In Construction
Mortenson recently reported that construction employment growth in the Valley grew at a rate of 8% in Q4 of 2016. This expansionary trend makes attracting and retaining quality talent a continuous focus within the industry. However, the percentage of women in construction and extraction (oil and gas extraction, mining, dredging and quarrying) jobs has risen only 0.5% in forty years from 2.2% in the 1978-83 census to 2.7% in the 2011-15 census. This research shows that women’s share of construction jobs has experienced drastically slower growth than other non-construction occupations.
“Many women today entered the construction industry through alternate routes,” said Tammy Carr, principal, Mortenson. “When more companies exhibit flexibility as they seek to fill a position – looking for the values, behaviors and skills inherent in a gender and background – candidate diversity rather than simplistic measure of years of industry experience – then a significant impact will be made on these statistics, and the benefits of a diverse workforce on the employer. More female engineering and construction role models in the community, coupled with progress the educational system is making through a focus on STEM, is certain to contribute to more positive future results.”
Mortenson believes the solution to a more diverse industry requires a multi-prong approach. The company leadership is confident that educating youth at the K-12 level, especially diverse groups and females on career options in the construction industry, is a long-term investment in the future. For example, locally, Mortenson recently sponsored and joined others in volunteering in the Advancing Women in Construction (AWIC) mentorship program’s Girl Scout Wagon Build Workshop.
Mortenson’s project engineer, Alicia Duffy, building a wagon with girls at the AWIC Girl Scout Wagon Build Workshop
AWIC’s program is focused on increasing the number of women that successfully graduate from the Del E. Webb School of Construction at Arizona State University. The group is sustained by industry members and provides support for students through mentorship and networking opportunities. Students and industry members of AWIC demonstrate the importance of promoting women in the construction field by reaching out to young women of all ages in the community.
“The annual Girl Scout Wagon Build workshop brings together students and industry members to help Girl Scout troops build wagons for their cookie deliveries and teach them about the construction industry,” said Alicia Duffy, Mortenson’s project engineer. “This event not only shines light on opportunities for women in construction, but it also allows the Girl Scouts to have fun while building something that they are proud of.”
In addition to community involvement, Mortenson also employs flexible hiring practices, seeking to invest in team members with diverse perspectives. In fact, research shows that socially diverse groups tend to make smarter decisions and are often more innovative than homogeneous groups. As a company known for their innovation, creating an environment of inclusion and collaboration is a necessity.
These educational engagements and diverse hiring practices do not complete the equation; Mortenson also fosters an inclusive culture through formation and implementation of Business Engagement Networks, or affinity groups. These groups hold meetings to promote education and mentoring and provide input to the organization’s strategy and business planning, in order to influence the ways they can enhance the engagement and experience of all team members.
“We have created an opportunity to allow another perspective to be voiced,” said Joanna Estes, quality specialist for Mortenson and leader of the company’s local Business Engagement Network. “By starting such a group, we have formed a foundation for a network of women that did not exist before. This network will provide our office the opportunity to attract and retain a diverse workforce while building a community that is cohesive, supportive, and committed to Mortenson’s values.”