Jihane Fazio, associate vice president, AECOM

By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA

A panel of transportation design and construction professionals at ARTBA’s Federal Issues Program (FIP) discussed the challenges and opportunities regarding recruitment and retention of women in the industry.

ARTBA Chairman David Zachry, who moderated the May 16 discussion, acknowledged what everyone in the room noticed: most of the FIP attendees were middle-aged or older white males.

Women are only 12.5 percent of 6.8 million people working in the overall construction industry.  On the other hand, the industry’s compensation to women is 95.7 percent of what it is for men, compared to 81.1 percent in the general economy.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen this month said that increasing female participation in the workforce outside of the home could raise the nation’s gross domestic product by 5 percent.

Firms “win” when they include more women, Zachry said.

He asked the panelists for one action that firms large and small can take to improve their recruitment and retention of women. Here are their responses:

  • Jihane Fazio, associate vice president, AECOM: Give women the opportunity to engage in meaningful jobs. “Show them you care about their careers,” she said.
  • Mel Jones, national director of diversity & inclusion, Skanska: “Start the conversation,” with company leadership and employees. “Be ready to be flexible, no more status quo.”
  • Chris Miller, COO, Granite Construction: Firms have to be willing to try new approaches. “You are going to have to get uncomfortable, and that’s okay.”
  • Mimi Kronisch, senior director RK&K: Employers have to be “deliberate” about understanding women. They need encouragement to advance.

The panel was hosted by ARTBA’s Women Leaders Council, which promotes leadership and career advancement through networking, mentoring, recognition and educational activities.