While the architecture and construction industry has been historically male, many companies are achieving workforce gender parity like Arrowstreet, but there is always room for progress. Last month, a community of builders, architects, and designers took on this long-standing, relevant topic: How to develop and retain talented women in the design and construction community through workplace culture and mentoring.
I was privileged to speak on a panel of experts at the latest “B/A/D Talks,” a regular series at the Boston Design Center which strategically creates professional networking events and provide space for deep conversations that bring together the Boston-area community of builders, architects, and designers. This series which is four years old was hosted Paul Reidt and Linda Kochman of KR+H Cabinetmakers and moderated by Kyle Hoepner, Editor of New England Home.
While the title was “Getting More Good Women into B/A/D Companies,” it became quickly apparent that individual experiences across the industry vary—not all good and not all bad—but part of a large spectrum of issues. One of the largest topics discussed were the opportunities provided for women and the effect of work-life policies on retention. I was able to share data from the 2016 AIA survey on Diversity in the Profession of Architecture which indicated that women have a great concern about a long work hours and lack of flexibility to work remotely, job share, or work flexible hours. A leading strategy to address this concern is to promote a change in office culture that allows flexibility for employees to achieve better work-life balance.
Additionally, the role of mentoring—peer-to-peer and through leadership—is critical to building confidence, experience, and professional growth with all staff, but especially women. All of the panelists described how they had mentors that provided positive support for their own career growth and enjoyed mentoring their own staff today to build a stronger workforce and company.
Talent retention is a critical and important aspect of any successful business. In construction, architecture, and design, the product and process of our work will only improve when we have happier and more diverse employees. Having this conversation with this influential community was a big step in the right direction.