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    Building Inclusive Environments: How Male Leaders Can Drive Change

    May 29, 2019


    The Groundbreaking Women in Construction conference, presented by Engineering News-Record, has sought to bring women and men together over the past 16 years to learn from each other and help our industry grow in the areas of gender inclusion and diversity. The theme of this year’s conference – collaborate, mentor, lead, succeed – was reflected and reinforced throughout the two-day event, with inspiring speakers, thought-provoking panel discussions, and statistics on where we stand.

    In 1998, women comprised 9.5 percent of the construction industry. Twenty years later, in 2018, that number reached 10 percent. The morning panel discussion titled, “Executive Ideals and the Realities of Inclusion,” opened with this fact. Panel members were specifically selected to represent male leaders from large construction firms and included Chad Mathes, executive vice president at Dragados USA; Jay Tangney, executive vice president and general counsel at Suffolk Construction; and Balfour Beatty’s own Eric Stenman, president of US Buildings. The discussion focused on what men in executive positions can and are doing to drive change in our industry to increase the numbers of women in construction, including influencing inclusion and diversity efforts, changing perceptions and measuring success.

    Throughout the hour-long discussion, the dynamic panel covered topics such as the business case for inclusion and diversity, the pay gap, retaining and advancing women, and what has and hasn’t worked for their firms. Eric Stenman discussed our efforts at Balfour Beatty to take a hard look at where we are as a company in this area as one of our first steps in moving towards a people-first culture, a move that, according to him, is necessary to attract and retain top talent.

    “A people first culture can’t be achieved without having an inclusive culture,” Stenman stated when asked about Balfour Beatty’s inclusion and diversity initiative. When asked about what has not worked, Stenman explained that he has seen inclusion and diversity as an idea in our industry but not a priority with buy-in from the top down, which has resulted in inaction. Stenman spoke about our Connecting Women employee resource group expanding from two chapters to six over the past year as a great sign of progress, and how this progress can be continued with more engagement from male counterparts.

    “To the men in the room – don’t look for yourself,” Stenman challenged, “Look to give opportunities for those not like you.”

    The panel concluded with participants discussing action their companies are taking, including conducting bias trainings, encouraging women-led groups, and further integrating inclusion and diversity into recruiting efforts. As far as Balfour Beatty’s efforts in this area, stay tuned – in Stenman’s own words, “We are just getting started.”