Episode 33 | 

October 26, 2023

Building Better with Women in Construction

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In This Episode

In this episode of The Construction Revolution Podcast, we sit down with Andrea Janzen, CEO at Ambition Theory, and Dr. Tim Taylor, Director of Research at the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). Andrea and Tim worked together to develop Ambition Theory’s 2023 Building Better: Women in Construction Report, based on research conducted in partnership with the NCCER. We will discuss the findings of the report, and what construction leaders can do to enable women in their companies to reach their full potential.  

Tune in to learn more about the difference between mentorship and sponsorship, and the importance of sponsoring women in the construction industry.  

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Steven Rossi-Zalmons

Marketing & Events Lead, Giatec Scientific Inc.


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Andrea Janzen

CEO, Ambition Theory

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Dr. Tim Taylor

Director of Research, National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)

Podcast Transcript

Steven Rossi-Zalmons: 

Hello there and welcome to The Construction Revolution Podcast. My name is Steven Rossi and here on the show, we explore the latest trends, technologies, people, and organizations that are revolutionizing or disrupting the construction industry and are changing what the industry will look like tomorrow. Today on the show I’m speaking with Andrea Janzen, CEO at Ambition Theory, and Dr. Tim Taylor, the director of research at the National Center for Construction Education and Research. We will discuss Ambitions Theory’s 2023 Building Better: Women In Construction report based on research conducted in partnership with the NCCER. With their combined background experience, their knowledge spans across a diverse range of fields, including construction, marketing, engineering, and education. With their insight, we will dive into the realities of the construction industry workforce and the untapped potential of women in construction. Tune in to learn more about their work and how you can ensure that you are supporting every member of your own team. 

Welcome, Tim and Andrea, thank you for joining me today. How are you both doing? 

Andrea Janzen: 

I’m doing fantastic. Thank you so much for having us, Steven. 

Tim Taylor: 

Yes, same here. I’m looking forward to talking. 

Steven Rossi-Zalmons: 

Yeah, me too. I’m looking forward to learning more about both of you and your organizations and also diving a bit into the report. You guys worked on, the Building Better Report and learning more about that and the progress we’re making with women in the construction industry. I guess, we’ll just dive right in, if you could. Maybe I’ll start with you, Andrea, if you could just tell me a bit about your organization and how you started Ambition Theory. 

Andrea Janzen: 

My name’s Andrea Janzen and I’m the founder and CEO of Ambition Theory. We are a leadership development company and our focus is a hundred percent on accelerating the path to leadership for women in construction. For me, like a lot of women, when I was growing up, construction wasn’t really a promoted career path, and so I like to say construction chose me. I didn’t necessarily choose construction. Ambition Theory started out as a general leadership development company and my husband actually got me into construction. He works in construction and his company was sending women to a Women in Construction Conference, and I had been focusing on women’s leadership and he sent me a link to the conference and I saw, I was just checking it out for curiosity, like what are they talking about? What are they learning? Who are the speakers? This was in 2018 and on one of the afternoon time slots on the schedule, it said TBD. 

I was an entrepreneur trying to get my business off the ground, and you know like they say, you miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take. I cold called the conference and said, “Do you need a women’s leadership speaker?” They said yes. The talk went extremely well. After that, I had a whole bunch of women from the construction industry in my eight-week leadership program that was just getting off the ground. Over the years, it got to the point where we were working with other industries, but about 70% of the clients were from construction, and we made the decision to focus all of our efforts on this amazing industry because there’s so much potential, there’s so much opportunity, and it’s a really great time to be in construction. 

Steven Rossi-Zalmons: 

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that’s a really interesting story. It’s interesting to see that there was so much desire from the industry for that education, which is great. Then Tim, if you could tell us about the NCCER and your role there and how you got started with that. 

Tim Taylor: 

Sure. I am the director of research for the National Center for Construction Education and Research, NCCER. We are an organization that develops training curriculum, training programs, turnkey training solutions, and provides industry credentials to construction craft professionals. We have 40 different trades that we develop curriculum for. That curriculum is used in high schools, community colleges, third-party training organizations, industry associations, contractor-led training programs. Our real focus is addressing the skilled craft shortage and maintaining the quality of construction education and skills within the US. My role in that is I run our research department where we are focused on ways to really improve the delivery of training and then also the performance of construction craft professionals in executing project work. 

Steven Rossi-Zalmons: 

I’m interested to learn more about all the work you’re doing and I’m curious as to, obviously you guys are both interested in education, which is obviously a very important part of any industry, especially one where we have a labor shortage. That’s obviously where it starts. I’m wondering how you each got to know each other and where the idea came about to collaborate on this report. 

Andrea Janzen: 

I can take that one. It actually started on a podcast interview just like this. Last, I think it was October, NCCER was launching their podcast, The Builder’s Table, and they reached out to me to see if I could be interviewed on the podcast. We had a conversation just like we’re having today, Steven, with Jennifer Wilkerson, and after we hit record, we realized our values, our missions are really aligned. Jennifer was talking about the fact that NCCER was doing research and they were in the middle of this research report about women in construction, and at the same time, we had this vision of creating a report. I don’t know if you’re familiar or your listeners are familiar with the McKinsey Lean in Women in the Workplace Report. It’s a report that comes out every year. They’ve been collaborating on this for about eight years.cWe had this vision of we want to create something like this that can be a report, a guide, that people can go back to every year to see what is the state of women in construction and how do we actually accelerate the path to leadership? 

We had this vision to create that, and we were struggling to get it off the ground, trying to figure out how it would happen, and we connected with Tim and it was immediately realized, like there’s so much alignment here, we could probably have a bigger impact. Instead of us both trying to do this thing separately, what if we joined forces and did it together? The cool thing about this partnership is that our expertise at Ambition Theory is really more on the construction management side, and NCCER is more on the craft professional side, and we found that most initiatives are separate. There’s initiatives for the construction leadership side, there’s initiatives for trades professionals, craftspeople, but there was nothing looking at the whole industry as one big data collection, so that’s what we decided to do and that’s how it started. Tim, I’ll let you continue this story. 

Tim Taylor: 

No, I think you’ve described it pretty accurately. What we got together and started having discussions about, well, what do we want to study and how do we want to go about it? Because it’s a very big topic. We really focused on two things. One of them is the idea of flexible work options. Within the general industry right now, that’s something that really gets talked a lot about and it’s something that construction was concerned with, so there was that issue. Then, the other one was around the idea of women in leadership positions, whether that’s in the field or whether that’s within more of the office environment and trying to better understand the dynamics around that and what was going on with the industry. 

The way we went about doing this work was we put together a survey that we sent the same survey to women in the construction industry, craftswomen, foreman, superintendent, project engineers, accountants, human resources, HR, project managers, executive leadership, anybody that we could get this survey in their hands, we put it out there. We ended up having responses from 770 women across the construction industry across the US and Canada, many different states. We had a great diversity in terms of what types of jobs they were doing, how long they had been in the construction industry, more than 20 years, or I’ve been in it for six months, multiple education levels, multiple demographic levels, so we were able to really capture with the survey, a very wide and diverse snapshot of women currently working in the construction industry. 

Steven Rossi-Zalmons: 

Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s really interesting, taking such a wide approach. I think that’s very, Andrea, as you mentioned, a lot of papers and stuff, you’ve very focused on your niche, but it’s great that you were able to get such a diverse viewpoint of the industry. For people who haven’t read the report yet, I was just wondering if you could go over the key highlights so that we can dive into a couple of those a little deeper. 

Tim Taylor: 

I’ll talk about the first general topic that we were interested in, which was really this idea of work flexibility. This is something that the construction industry you hear about, it’s in a lot of the general press that that’s what people are wanting and it’s really hard to weld a boiler pipe from your couch at home over Zoom. The construction industry is looking at, we have these shortages, this is something that people want. We ask the women that did the survey, when you’re looking for a position or if you’re evaluating a job, what are you interested in? There were six main questions or six main items, salary, how much you’re making, the benefits package, the career advancement opportunities, flexible work options, and then work-life balance to see what was coming out within that. What we found that was a little bit surprising to us is that with women in the construction industry, they ranked flexible work options last in terms of what their preferences were. 

That’s a little bit different than what we commonly hear in the industry. What they ended up ranking as their number one preference was work-life balance. I understand that projects, we have a time commitment that we have to meet on them, and I want to be involved in that, but I want to be able to have set hours so that I know when I’m going to be working. I also want to make sure that I have time at home with my family and time to do things outside of work, and that was really that preference. For us, that was an insightful finding that is actually good news for the construction industry because that’s something that we as an industry have a little bit more control over than trying to look at remote work options for the industry, so that was the first element that we looked at. 

The second area that we looked at was what types of support were women getting at moving into leadership positions? If we look in the construction industry, women, they’re underrepresented in the industry as a whole. If you look at the entire industry, about 14% of the people that work in construction are women. That’s all levels. If you look at trades in particular, it’s less than 4% of women are making up that trade population. We’re looking at those trends and then we’re saying, “Well, how many women are moving into leadership roles within their organization?” 

What we saw with that was we had 88% of the women that we’ve surveyed, we asked them a question, do you want to be in a leadership role at some point in your career? 88% of the respondents said, yes, they do, and so that shows that women want to be in a leadership position. Then we asked them, how many of you know what you need to do to get into those leadership positions? Approximately 75% said that they knew what they needed to do to get into those leadership positions. Then we asked the final question around that was, how many of you have ever had a woman as a manager or immediate supervisor? Roughly 75% of them reported that they had either never had a woman supervisor or they had rarely had a woman supervisor. Clearly, there’s a disconnect there. As we were curious about that, we asked some behaviors around what types of behaviors have you experienced in your current position that helped prepare you to do work within your current job? This is things like showing me the ropes, showing me the technical aspects of the job. We received a lot of evidence that women were getting that support. 

But then we also asked a question around behaviors that had more to do with opportunities, providing you opportunities to move into different positions. For example, I have a colleague who puts me forward to assign me harder jobs. I get invited to the same meetings that my male colleagues get invited to, and so there’s a list of behaviors that we would go through and examine with that. What we found comparing those two are that the behaviors to support women in their current role, those happened twice as often as the behaviors of providing opportunities to move into leadership. Again, those supporting me in my current job, that happened twice as often as the opportunity to advance and move up, and Andrea, if you wouldn’t mind explaining what that really means as we try to operationalize that. 

Andrea Janzen: 

Yeah. The one thing that was I think the biggest takeaway from this study is this idea that the words that we used to describe this are sponsorship versus mentorship, so those behaviors where women are supported in their current role, they’re given that technical training. Those are mentorship behaviors, so that’s really supporting you in your current role to do your job, give you a sense of belonging. What we’ve found is we’ve noticed actually anecdotally, that a lot of the industry has created these formal mentorship programs for women. It’s like a lot of companies have them, a lot of construction associations have them, and it’s been really drilled, communicated that mentorship for women, mentorship for women, we need this if we’re going to attract women into the industry. The good news from the report was that it actually is working. Women were feeling really supported in their current roles, but the behaviors that lead to opportunity, which the word to describe those, is sponsorship, so that’s where somebody’s advocating for you, they’re putting you into that stretch role. They’re kind of like putting their reputation on the line to help you accelerate in your career, those behaviors happened less often. How it really shows up, it’s another form of unconscious bias. 

In the industry, we use the word mentorship like it’s part of the construction culture. Mentorship is how we develop people, but men and women are actually mentored differently, and this is what we found in our study. Women are typically prepared. How that usually shows up is you are that young motivated woman, you’re like, I want to get to the next level. You find that person, that experienced person, either in your company or in the industry, you say, “Can we meet for coffee? Tell me everything I need to do to get to that next level.” What happens is that senior person, that experienced person will be like, “Read this book, practice these skills.” Maybe they’ll share a story about how they learned those things in their career, and then you leave that meeting, you’re so excited, you get back to your job site or your car or your desk and you’re staring at the blank wall, right? You’re like, I read the book, I heard the story. How do I actually do this? Where’s the opportunity for me to prove that I know how to do this? It’s really up to that junior person to really find that opportunity to prove themselves. 

But on the other hand, how the behavior shows up for men is that young man is like, “You know what? I want to get to that next level.” They find that experienced person and they’re like, “What do I need to do to get to that next level?” That person’s like, “Oh, you know what? I’m having lunch with the executive vice president next week. Why do you come with me?” Then, you’re getting that exposure to that decision maker and they’re thinking about like you know what? These are my goals. This is what I want to learn, and they’re like, you know what? Let me pull some strings. I’ll get you on that project and put you into that stretch role. What happens is women are preparing for that opportunity. Men typically are given that opportunity and they can learn as they go. The cool thing about how this shows up, it’s not mentorship, it’s actually sponsorship is when you’re put into that stretch role by someone who has influence, you actually have that security net in case you fail, right? That person’s going to make sure you’re going to be successful because they put you on the project, right? the project fails, everybody’s in it, right? Their reputation goes down as well. But if the project’s successful and they put someone into that stretch role, it’s good for everybody. 

One thing I want to be really clear is this does not happen on purpose, and actually men and women are treated differently out of really good intention, so this is unconscious bias. People don’t realize they’re treating men and women differently. For women, it’s like, I want her to be successful. I want her to knock it out of the park, so when she gets that opportunity, I don’t want her to fail. I want to make sure she can deliver. What ends up happening is women are unintentionally held back because they’re not offered that opportunity to really prove and learn as they go, and so that’s kind of a main reason why we’re not seeing women rise to leadership at the same rate as men in the construction industry. That’s kind of how it shows up. 

Another interesting set that Tim didn’t mention yet was we really scrubbed the data and what we found, we asked people like, what do you look for when you’re looking for a job? With people with less than one-year experience, they put salary as the number one criteria when they’re figuring out where they want to work. But people with more than one year of experience, their number one answer was a clear path to advancement. What we found is that women are not seeing that clear path to advancement. Like Tim mentioned, the majority of women have never or rarely seen a woman in a leadership position. They’ve never worked directly on a team that was led by a woman. Then what our research is telling us is that these mentorship behaviors of like staying in your current role is happening twice as often as these sponsorship behaviors, which actually lead to that path to advancement, so That’s really the challenge in retention is how do we show women that this is a really great, exciting industry that you can be successful at, and here is your path? This is what it looks like. That was the big nugget that we found in the research. 

Steven Rossi-Zalmons: 

Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, I think that’s really interesting for both of the points that you guys raised. But in terms of getting women to not only join the industry, but for them, it’s important that they stay in the industry and are able to progress, and I think it’s really, I know a lot of, as you mentioned, there are a lot of existing programs to get women in the industry, but we don’t really talk about progressing them and keeping them in the industry. It’s more just about getting as many in the door initially, which it’s great that you guys are taking that next step to continue that. 

Tim Taylor: 

Steven, I think that’s a great point that you make. The construction industry is working earnestly to address this issue with some level of success, but I think there’s a frustration with, well, we’re trying this and we’re having limited success and it’s not working. That’s where I see our work as good news that look, this requires a mindset shift in terms of how you mentor and sponsor women within an organization. Andrea calls it the aha moment. Once you realize it. With craft workers, we’ve done focus group with tradeswomen where they would say, “I’m on the project. My male colleagues are always saying, ‘That’s heavy. Let me pick it up for you. Let me do that for you.'” They’re earnestly trying to be nice, but that’s hindering their ability to develop into their skills as a tradesperson. What needs to happen right now, this sort of shift is a mindset shift. It’s not like you need to invest a million or $2 million or $3 million in a new program. It’s having that mindset shift to really accelerate and have that leadership growth take off. 

Steven Rossi-Zalmons: 

Yeah, for sure. 

Andrea Janzen: 

Yeah, and the cool thing about that mindset shift is that it can happen really quickly. We have a case study in our report of someone that came to a talk where we explained the difference between mentorship and sponsorship and the impact that it can have on an organization. This person, it was literally a 45-minute talk. They left and they’re like, “I’m going to apply what I learned.” The first thing they did was they had to go to a networking event the following week, so they’re like, “Okay, this woman does not have exposure to these people in the industry. I’m just going to bring her along, see how it happens. I’m inspired by the talk I heard at the conference. Let me just see if this is going to work.” What surprised this person was that the woman that they brought along was actually really good at networking, actually better at it than he was, so he’s like, “Wow, this is an amazing opportunity.” They’re spreading the company brand around. They are making new connections, planting the seeds for future work. He saw this skill that this woman had that he wasn’t looking for before, and he saw the value of it. 

The cool thing about sponsorship, it’s not a I’m going to do this because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s like a feel good give back motivation. It actually helps that senior leader. Then, a couple weeks later, there’s another networking event and this person, they’re on the executive team, part of their job is to go network, do business development, and this person doesn’t love that part of their job, but he has to suck it up and do it. There was this case where he had something else going on, he couldn’t go to the networking event, so he sent this woman instead, and that’s where the real value happened because this person could be out doing whatever, not at the networking event, but he had the confidence that there was somebody else spreading the company’s brand, working on his goals so that the company really gets that value. 

The kind of ripple effect of this, it was like us, we got feedback from this woman, from the protege, that’s the language we use. What was it like when you knew you had this sponsor? The behavior kind of fell into place. What they said was, “When I’m on set, I don’t get as much pushback as I used to because people in the organization could see, okay, this senior leader trusts this person and that confidence projects all over the organization,” so everybody trusted this person. There was no need to prove myself or they didn’t get pushback, so they enjoyed their job a lot more. They were able to deliver more, and really it becomes this win-win. 

Then, a couple months later, this person, like the story’s not over. It keeps going and going and going. Their company was doing a strengths finder assessment, and what this leader realized, they had a debrief with the team and he goes, “Oh my goodness, every single person on my team has the same strengths that I have.” He realized he was hiring people that were like a mini version of himself, and he realized this is actually not going to create an effective team. Actually, his realization was, I need people on my team that are good at relationship building. What he did was he said his typical kind of like when he’s looking to hire people, he was looking for really strong technical skills that would be kind of the decision criteria. 

His brief to the recruiter this time was, you know what? I want someone with strong social and emotional skills because that’s a really important part of this business as well, so can you, please actually make that the higher criteria on the list of hiring? What ended up happening was they hired another woman to join that team because women bring a different skillset to the table. I think getting to this point where this team is becoming more diverse, they’re bringing more skillsets into the team, not relying on everybody to do the same thing, because the people that are strong technically, they could stay in that lane, they can really deliver on that kind of work, but people that are really strong relationally, when you need those skills on a project, there’s people that can step up and deliver that, so it was a really cool outcome and that was really from the start of that shift in your mindset that Tim talked about. 

Steven Rossi-Zalmons: 

Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great story and it’s a good example of how, I mean, diversity in every sense, in skills, in gender, in every other sense is really important and valuable to any organization. 

On that note, I’m wondering, in the construction industry, although we have these giant companies, most of the construction industry is sort of small to medium size businesses often family run or whatever. I’m wondering, in those smaller organizations, if you had any advice on how would their limited resources and possibly scope, how they can still work to include women in the industry and also to help them move forward in the industry as well? 

Andrea Janzen: 

I think the first thing is to recognize the opportunity and just recognize and I think challenge yourself on what does it take to be successful in my company? What are the skills that we need on our team? To really think about it that way. I think definitely read a report because a lot of resources in there. It’s free and you can, because at the end of the day, like Tim said, it is a mindset shift, so just recognizing what kind of skills, what kind of people may be untapped, what kind of mindsets am I bringing to the table that I may be stuck in? Maybe I’m just kind of stuck in this mindset, stuck in this way of working. One thing I really want to acknowledge, it’s not the way that we work, is that it’s not about blaming, it’s not about pointing the finger, it’s recognizing that everybody’s at a different stage of their journey and no one’s actually figured this out, so you’re probably going to make mistakes, and that is totally okay. That’s actually great. 

When you take action, you may not get it right the first time. I think it’s being curious, talking to people and really shifting to a mindset of opportunity. What untapped potential is out there? What skills do I need on this team? What if I had someone that could do this thing that I’m not good at and really being open to that and just being really curious. Then also networking, so getting out. There are amazing organizations. There’s a Canadian Association of Women in Construction in Canada, and there’s the National Association of Women in Construction in the US, so getting tapped into those organizations so that you can meet people, you can talk to them. Those are some great ways to get started, if you don’t necessarily have the resources to go all in and create like a big huge plan. 

Tim Taylor: 

Yeah, and building upon that, I’ll also second with the limited resources aspect. Read our report. As Andrea said, it’s free. We also have another report that NCCER did where it’s focused specifically on tradeswomen. It’s called In Her Own Words: Improving Project Outcomes. It’s available on our website. The powerful thing to me about both these reports is we went to women to ask them their opinion on these different issues. If you’re the one woman within an organization, it’s maybe a little bit hard for you to share here’s my thoughts on things because I’m so outnumbered. We’ve done that for you. We’ve provided that perspective in there to where you can glean that. If you think about if you’re married or if you have a partner, I wish I could tell you that my wife and I communicate perfectly all the time, but unfortunately, we do not, so men and women are different, and this will help understand that. 

The second piece I’ll add to this, and it’s building upon something that Andrea mentioned earlier, is why do you want to have more women within your organization? When we approach this problem within NCCER, the industry’s thinking right now, well, we don’t have enough craft workers and there’s hardly any women craft workers, so we can go get some women to help us solve this math problem, essentially. I think that’s shortsighted because what we found in our research is that women bring different skills, talents, and abilities to the industry that we miss out on right now. A focus on teamwork. Making sure that the construction crew is working at an optimal level versus how many linear feet of electrical cable that I get installed today. There is an intention to detail. 

Just stereotyping, men want to get things done quickly, women want to get things done correctly, so that attention to detail. A focus on safety, a strong focus on safety. If you’re a contractor, if you’re a construction owner, and you said, “Would you like your teams to be more focused on the performance of the overall team? Would you like them to have an increased focus on safety? Would you like them to have more attention to detail in the work that they were doing?” I think the answer is universally yes. Once we have that mindset of here’s how women can help me improve my project performance, now I’m going to be like, I want that and I’m going to make changes necessary to make my organization an inclusive environment where women can not only come in but succeed. 

One of the things that we talk about is I think many of our efforts in the past were well-intended, but in many ways, we’re maybe thinking about, well, let’s fix the women so that they can work in the industry versus let’s look at the industry and make it a better place to work for everybody. We lay that out in both of our documents, and I think that if you’re a smaller company with limited resources, you don’t have to start a massive program to do this. It’s a mindset shift, and I think our work will help make that mindset not only within the individual that’s in a leadership position. If you share it within your organization, sort of having that aha moment together is what will really drive change. 

Andrea Janzen: 

I will say one thing to add. Tim and I have done quite a few speaking engagements about the research findings and what people do. People come up to us afterwards and the thing that they say, they’re like, “I just didn’t know.” Like, “Nobody explained this to me before.” Sometimes, it’s just having those words, that understanding, it’s extremely empowering because one thing that whenever I know when we speak at conferences, they’re like, well, every time we get a women in construction speaker, it’s either alienating to men or it’s doom and gloom, or it’s like men versus women and this report is really about how does everybody win? How do we make this industry better for everybody and actually what’s in it for the company and how does it create value? It’s a different narrative that we’ve written this report in. One thing I will say, this is really simple. What you could do is read the report yourself, send it to your team and get them to read it and say, “Let’s talk about it for five minutes at our next leadership team meeting.” 

We know companies that have done it and they’ve come back, and then it’s like Tim said, everyone’s having these moments of like, “Oh, this is how I can apply this in my team.” “Oh, this is how it could work in my department,” or, “I just had no idea. Did you know?” Then, you’re you’re kind of like realizing, learning new things, and it’s exciting to learn new ways of working, new approaches, and it’s as simple as like, “Hey, I read this report, read it. Let’s carve out five minutes in our weekly meeting to talk about what you thought about it,” and amazing things can come from that. 

Steven Rossi-Zalmons: 

Yeah, definitely going through the report, definitely you can see that it’s written from a different lens, which as you mentioned, would be really beneficial for teams to go over and work on incorporating into the strategies you talk about into their organizations for the benefit of women, but also just for your organization’s benefit as well, which it’s such a refreshing take. 

Just moving on to the industry a bit more broadly, moving away from the report. Andrea, I was wondering where you see that the progression of women in the industry in the next 10-ish years, and more broadly than that, if there’s anything that you’re really excited to see in the industry in the coming years? 

Andrea Janzen: 

I think it’s this recognition that women do, like the research that NCCER did, that really women bring a different perspective to the industry. The industry has been a certain way for so many years, and I think as more women are getting into those influential leadership positions, we’re going to see more collaboration, we’re going to see more innovation, we’re going to see better retention, and it’s just going to open up more opportunities for people and make the industry more profitable as well. There’s just different perspectives, different ways of working, and I think it could really advance the innovation in the industry once you have different types of people. 

The other thing I will say, it’s not about men versus women, it’s like that cheesy saying, and people might be rolling their eyes as I say this, but when the tide rises, all boats rise. It’s when you have more women there, it opens up the door for other different types of people, different types of thinking. I think one thing that we talk about at Ambition Theory is the leadership model that we teach is transactional versus transformational. Transformational is more where the leader’s job is to inspire people to contribute. The transactional side is more where the leader’s job is to tell people what to do, course correct where they make a mistake. The other interesting thing about that is women research has said women are more transformational naturally, so they have these skills already, but because the environment in the construction industry has been dominated by men for so long, especially at that high-level leadership, that’s kind of the leadership model that is taught. 

But what’s really interesting is that really the younger generation, it doesn’t matter what gender they are, they respond more to the transformational model. They want to feel like they’re part of something larger. They want to understand the impact that they’re having. They want to be authentic and vulnerable at work. When we have more transformational leaders in the industry at those higher levels, that is going to attract the younger generation and make them want to work there, make them be able to see that path to advancement, so it’s just really about unlocking these different skill sets. That’s kind of where I see it going, is that when we have more women in leadership position, it just opens the door for everybody else and then it becomes more than like let’s just get the bodies in because we’re having a labor shortage. 

It’s like actually maybe that’s the motivation at the beginning, but kind of like the icing on the cake or the surprise outcome is that actually there’s all these skills that we didn’t have in the industry before that can make my company more competitive. I will say, thinking five, 10 years down the road, the ones that are not thinking about this now, they are going to be struggling to catch up. It’s this idea where it’s not going to happen instantly. Change takes a while, but when you take that tiny step today, it leads to an exponential outcome down the road. 

Steven Rossi-Zalmons: 

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that’s really interesting and I’m excited to see where we go and yeah, that’s great. Then for Tim, I’m wondering with your work at NCCER, obviously you’re working on, I’m sure lots of different reports and research. I’m wondering if you could share any sort of other exciting research that you guys are working on. 

Tim Taylor: 

Sure. I mentioned earlier the document, the whitepaper that talked about trades women. That’s available on our website. If you go to nccer.org and go to our research page, it’s right there. But what we’re actively working on right now is looking at one of the barriers to getting more women into the industry is being able to provide training for if you’re a craft professional, is being able to provide that training to get the skills that you need to be successful in the job. Really that is a barrier for many people to enter into the construction industry because these are very technical, very highly skilled jobs. If you’re building a high-rise building, if you’re building infrastructure to allow decarbonization of energy. If you are building a battery manufacturing plant, these take high intellect, high skills, and it requires a great deal of preparation to do that. 

What we’re working on actively is making training more accessible because if we look at women just naturally in general within society, if something breaks on your house, if your car breaks, it’s probably going to be dad that goes and fixes it and dad’s probably going to grab his son and go to fix it. I would grab my son versus going and grabbing my daughter to go help me work on this. Just sort of generally within our society, women are not as exposed to that type of work. If you’re now a young adult and you get exposed to the construction industry for the first time and you’re thinking, “That’s really exciting, I’d like to go do that, but I’ve never done any work in that before, so I need to be able to get training.” We are actively working to make skills training more accessible both within high schools, both for contractors, community colleges, so we’ve got a lot of research efforts going on right now, but that’s really what the overarching theme is for it and we are constantly rolling stuff out about that to help advance the industry. We’ve got a research page on our website, so I would encourage you to stay plugged in with that, and we’re very focused on providing insight and solutions that help construction professionals every day do their job better. 

Steven Rossi-Zalmons: 

Absolutely. Yeah, that’s great. I’m excited to see what you guys continue to come out with and the initiatives that come from those reports as well. Just to wrap up, I was wondering if you could share any advice you have for leaders in the construction industry? 

Andrea Janzen: 

I think for me, it’s like be open, be curious and connect with people that are different than you because there’s such an opportunity to learn from them and actually get to know what their strengths are and see how they can complement yours. Definitely, I want to plug our report, so you can go to buildingbetterreport.com and you can download a report because the feedback that we’re getting is really incredible and you can bring that back to your team and really, I think teach them the difference between mentorship and sponsorship because the feedback that we’re getting is that, wow, like this is a new idea. Nobody explained this to me before and it’s really tangible so your whole team can start implementing that concept right away. 

Tim Taylor: 

I would agree with everything that Andrea said, and I think I would also add to it, if you’re a leader in construction, this is hard to address. If it was easy to address, we would’ve done it already because we’ve been working and trying to do it, and so I think acknowledging that in an open and transparent way. Many times Women In Construction Week comes around and we highlight as an organization, here’s what we’ve done. You kind of get the glossy marketing material, which is good. It’s good. We need to celebrate the accomplishments that we have. But I think also being open and honest to talk about within the right circles about, “Hey, we tried this and it just didn’t work.” If we share that with other people, then we see, “Oh, okay, we tried that and it didn’t work. Let’s try something different.” That shows a transparency and honesty that really helps advance these issues and address these problems versus trying to again, present the glossy marketing image. I think that’s really important as we work to address these kinds of issues. 

Andrea Janzen: 

I have actually one more thing to add, if that’s okay, Steven. One thing I think that we found is that up until now actually, and really still today, the kind of mindset has been that getting more women into construction, into the industry and women advancing to leadership is actually women’s work, like women need to figure out this problem. I think the shift needs to become is like actually we can’t change these women and we actually need to shift that burden off of the shoulders of women and onto the organization or onto the industry by just recognizing this is the way our society works today, and we actually need to look at that and question how that operates and is this a hundred percent the best way to be doing it? Or could we do some things a little bit differently so that women want to work there and we’re not making it up to women to try to fit in? It’s like we’re actually creating a place where women will fit in by putting the burden on the industry instead of on the women. I think that would lead to the biggest change happening the quickest, is if we made that recognition as an industry that women can’t solve this issue. It’s really the industry and our society and our culture that we need to look at. 

Steven Rossi-Zalmons: 

That’s a great point. Thanks for that. Thanks for adding on. Yeah, thank you both so much for joining. It was great to learn more about both of you and how you started working together and the report and the work you guys are doing, and it’s great to see that we have organizations that are working on both getting more women into the industry, but also making sure that there’s space for them to move forward and stay in the industry as well. 

Andrea Janzen: 

Amazing. Thank you so much for having us. 

Tim Taylor: 

Yes, it was a great discussion. I appreciate your time. 

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