SMACNA’s Women in Construction Leadership Summit met last week in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Eighteen members gathered to share success stories and brainstorm ideas on ways to increase diversity as well as appeal to the next generation entering the sheet metal and HVAC industry.
The summit kicked off with a review of the SMACNA Women in Construction discussion group on SMACNA Connect. This group is open to all SMACNA contractors and chapter executives. To join, log into SMACNA’s website and go to SMACNA Connect. The Women in Construction group is listed under Communities.
Kelcey Henderson, president, Continuum Advisory Group, and facilitator of the event, presented a Train the Trainer discussion on personal branding. The session was revealing as people were paired and asked to share backgrounds with each other over a 30-minute period. Each pair then revealed their impressions of each other and compared those to their own personal brand traits they wrote down before they met.
In the afternoon, the discussion turned to recruitment and ways to increase the number of women in the industry. For example, Western Allied Mechanical has a successful internship program and credits its success to a strong and inclusive company culture that helps them attract and retain employees.
Understanding what the next generation wants was a major theme of the day. Several members discussed sponsoring middle- and high school programs that focus on the trades, emphasizing the available career tracks and opportunities before they reach college. Other members are already partnering with groups that target younger, more diverse audiences. And as one participant mentioned, “the amount of publicity for these events cannot be oversold.”
The group stated it needed to encourage local areas to support and expand the number of women in the construction industry. For example, on the chapter level, it was mentioned that it is important to personally recruit participants. The Bay Area Women in Construction group held seven bi-monthly programs in the past year with 136 SMACNA affiliated members attending from 40 organizations. They have even partnered with the Local 104 Tradeswomen group. Bay Area WIC has made it a goal to increase attendance at these events. They have found it is imperative to find a champion who will support and encourage the group.
On a broader level, one suggestion was to ask for commitments, both in terms of hiring as well as sponsorship and funding. One chapter asked their business manager to commit to hiring 100 women in the next year. Asking for a commitment is an effective way to increase female apprentices, thereby increasing diversity in the industry.
SMACNA’s next Women in Construction event will be at the 2019 SMACNA Annual Convention, October 20-23, in Austin, Texas.
SMACNA members are invited to contribute to the discussion and help plan future events by joining the Women in Construction Community on SMACNA Connect. If you have trouble joining the community, please email Member Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions about the Women in Construction Leadership Council should be directed to Bridgette Bienacker at email@example.com.