Welcome to Construction DEI Talks, a podcast discussing diversity, equity and inclusion as it relates to the construction industry. Your host is Jorge Quezada, Vice President of Inclusive Diversity at Granite Construction. Stephanie Roldan, Director of Lean Culture at Rosendin and Aby Combs, Inclusive Diversity partner at Granite Construction are your co-hosts. Each episode will bring new conversations with subject matter experts about how we can make the industry a more diverse and inclusive place.
Today’s guest is Shirley Engelmeier, CEO and founder of Inclusion Inc., author of several books including Inclusion Is Still A Competitive Business Advantage and a Tedx speaker. For over two decades, she has advised Fortune 500 companies on creating inclusive, high performing leaders and enterprises. Prior to founding Inclusion Inc., she helped senior management positions for global consumer products organizations Brown and Williams and Frito Lay. She frequently works with executive teams to create strategy and sustainability for inclusion and diversity initiatives. Needless to say, Shirley is a voice we need in the construction industry.
To begin, Shirley shares her experiences being the only woman out of 26 division sales managers working on the team at Frito Lay corporate. She shares several instances of the many sexist comments she was forced to endure from her colleagues. At the time, she had no clue that the idea of being the odd one out would prepare her for the future of her work. Even in construction today, many employees feel they are the odd one out of the group. How can people who have never experienced this feeling lead a team at work?
Then, Shirley shares the areas in which construction has come a long way and the areas which need extra attention. It is her belief that many leaders don’t have a full understanding of the terms diversity, equity and inclusion. If the terms are misunderstood, it’s impossible to truly move forward with their ideologies. Shirley shares the equity equation she developed for leaders to provide the framework for progression. Reflecting on hiring patterns, Shirley shares that the American construction industry has been hiring diverse talent for decades. Thus, the issue lies in the practices which aren’t building an environment in which people want to stay. Equity and belonging are outcomes of inclusive and diverse practices.
The episode wraps us with Shirley explaining the advice she gives to leaders, which begins with validation. She stresses that by using inclusive behaviors, it will improve your engagement, productivity, talent retention and drive innovation. There is a real benefit for leaders to hear the perspective of those familiar with your company, as opposed to an outsider. While we all have good intentions, this work ultimately requires the level of impact we make through our actions. Sometimes, it takes a push such as an employee meeting for someone to finally take action. The reason Shirley’s organization has an inclusion model, inclusive leader skills and inclusive meeting practices is to instill these values in corporations over time. She concludes with advice for listeners: Be open, know that sometimes you just don’t know and always ask what other people think.