These randomly scheduled missives will opine on a variety of topics, mostly intended to be germane to design, construction, capital program management, and other related issues.

For shorter trips through the countryside, take a look at our blog, also called Notes from the Road.
Notes from the Road

March 2018

Me Too?

puzzle houseIn my last newsletter I offered a view of what trends are impacting the direction of our collective businesses.  The observations were obviously skewed to what I see in the type of work we all do.  However, there was one national trend which I intentionally saved for more serious analysis – the future opportunities for women in our workplace.

The “Me too” movement has focused on sexual and other forms of gender-based harassment.  To the extent this has existed, elimination of these vices can only be seen as necessary and equitable.  However, the Architectural, Engineering, Construction, and Facilities businesses of which we are part has a history of male dominance which warrants scrutiny, as we strive for transition to a hoped-for future state of parity.

How did this happen?

Sexual Stereotypes – It was well known:  Boys build things.  Boys fix things.  Guys are into tech.  Girls, not so much.  For decades, this seemed to go largely unchallenged.  Preconceptions such as these were reinforced and perpetuated in both unintentional and premeditated ways.  Parental influences, school curricula, hiring decisions.

Alpha Male Behavior – Many men did not help in the search for equality.  They prioritized work over family and relationships.  They pursued ambitions of advancement.  They satisfied the “need” to be competitive in the workplace.  They clung to the stereotype of the traditional breadwinner role model.  With the plurality of men in our fields, the “air” was often sucked out of the room, as these desires were catered to at the expense of very deserving women.

Advancement Limitations – This, too, is largely driven by stereotypical assumptions.  Men lead, women are teammates.  Men are assertive, women are retiring.  Men have management potential, with a commitment to work.  Women are more devoted to home and family.  Then there are the biggies – What will she do when she is pregnant?  Will she come back after the baby is born?  How devoted will she be to the job as a new mother?  These, and other preconceived tendencies, influence inclinations to discriminate.  

Outright discrimination – The incidents are well known, deliberate, and incontrovertible.  Hiring, firing, salary irregularities.  All pretty nasty.

Where has there been movement?

Women and MenIn all our related disciplines, the percentages of women in college programs has increased.  Schools of Architecture, in particular, now have nearly equal numbers of men and women in their programs.  Engineering, Construction, and Facilities Management still trail, but the numbers continue to increase.

Although the percentage of ownership or management positions held by women is nowhere near the entry level percentages, the numbers appear to increase year by year (albeit very slowly).  Anecdotally, there are leaders and followers, with Architecture and Planning at the head of the pack, and Construction very far behind all other disciplines.

What do some women have to say?

Recently, the Connecticut chapter of Professional Women in Construction (PWC) hosted an excellent dinner and panel discussion – AEC Industry Women: Transforming the Future.  Articulate, experienced women each described how they got to their leadership positions.  Their stories about their paths were unique and creative.  The women often credited the helpful assistance and endorsement of mentors along the way.  The specifics of their narratives were not at all like what you hear from men in similar positions.  But, they were unanimous is one piece of advice: “Have opinions, and speak up to make sure they are known.”

What does the future hold?

It’s essentially illegal to ask an interview candidate about salary history.  For me, this used to be one of my regular questions, since I wanted to stay in line with market trends and adequately address applicant expectations.  It never occurred to me that this was sometimes being used to suppress women’s compensation.  Now I know better.

Also not allowed (or ill advised): questions about age, sexual orientation, or marital status.

A heightened awareness of what constitutes a hostile work environment and illegal harassment (sexual or otherwise) will, I think, remove obstacles which impede the progress of women in the workplace.  Even some presumed icons have been snared in the enhanced scrutiny of our time (witness the self-recusal of Pritzker Prize winning architect Richard Meier).  The “Me too” movement has brought all this front and center.

Is this an enduring trend?

It sure seems like it.  It's been a long time coming; and progress has mostly been painfully incremental.  Are you making equal opportunity employment a reality in your workplace?  Make this include you too.

Let's see in a year or so...

Missed earlier newsletters? Find them here:

January 2018  “R U Trending?”
October 2017  “Do You Measure Up?”
August 2017  “I'm an Architect and I'm Here to Help”
January 2017  “The Future of Higher Education”
November 2016  “The Owner as CM?”
August 2016  “Don't you just hate...”
June 2016  “Duck Testing”
April 2016  “Once Upon a Time...”
January 2016  “I want to take you higher”
November 2015  “Moderating in all Things?”
July 2015  “Alphabet City”
May 2015  “Acey Trey Trey Trey?”
January 2015  “Nature or Nurture?”
August 2014  “Acey Trey Trey?”
June 2014  “The Seven Deadly Sins”
March 2014  “Thar She Blows!”
November 2013  “Giving Thanks”
September 2013  “Back to School?”
June 2013  “What Time is It?”
March 2013  “Acey Deucey?”
January 2013  “A Swamp Full of Alligators”
October 2012  “Plan to Live Forever, Part Deux”
July 2012  “A Midsummer Dream”
May 2012  “Are you Virtually Working?”
March 2012  “Your Huddled Masses”
January 2012  “Observing Observations”
October 2011  “I Want What I Want”
August 2011  “A Beach Read”
May 2011  “NeoLuddite or Technophile?”
March 2011  “Do Your Silos Leak?”
January 2011  “Plan to Live Forever!”
November 2010  “May I Have A Plan, Master?”
September 2010  “How do we choose?”
July 2010  “Good People Behaving Badly”
May 2010  “LEED: LEADing or Dead Weight?”
March 2010  “Why does it cost so much?”
January 2010 “Design/Builders show us your softer side.”
November 2009 “What the Facilities?”
September 2009 “Why Do Architects Make Good Owner’s Reps?”

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