Advancing Women in the Construction Industry
Suffolk Project Managers Tracy Deal and Elizabeth Clarkin are overseeing their respective projects in Miami and Boston from the ground up. That means both managers are on-site working from field offices and leading their teams, which are predominantly men, through the development of their projects.
“What I love about this industry is working with my team and developing a project from start to finish – one that’s likely going to change the community and the skyline for good,” said Clarkin. “At the same time, construction is an industry undergoing a massive transformation and that can present unique challenges.”
One of the most significant challenges in the construction industry today is the labor shortage. Attracting talent in today’s market is more competitive than ever. The construction industry will need to attract an estimated 546,000 additional workers in order to meet the demand for labor, according to a proprietary model developed by Associated Builders and Contractors. In addition, women make up only about 10.9 percent of the entire U.S. construction workforce and according to recent reports from McKinsey, for every 100 men promoted only 87 women receive promotions.
Creating a culture of inclusivity and equity in the workplace, especially in industries where women are underrepresented, takes a new level of focus. Coaching and leadership development are key components of establishing this strong culture.
Disrupting Through Innovative Talent Practices
To navigate a constantly shifting talent retention market and deepen investment in female leaders, Crystal Wahle, VP of Talent Management, Leadership & People Analytics at Suffolk partnered with AceUp. Wahle has a passion for leadership development and supporting great leaders.
“Suffolk Chairman and CEO John Fish always says, ‘We don’t build buildings, we build people.’ Leadership is an important element of that promise, and the frontline manager is the most critical relationship between an employee and the company,” said Wahle.
One of Suffolk’s goals working with AceUp is to help their organization build a culture that supports women and provides them with advancement opportunities. An all-women’s coaching cohort aims to level the playing field for women leaders, strengthen the management bench and achieve important business outcomes. The cohort ran from August 2022 to January 2023, with 90 percent of the women being highly engaged with AceUp’s platform and with their coaches.
Building Leaders in the Field
In addition to advocating for the extra time and energy to focus on coaching, Wahle encouraged participants to view coaching as a positive experience that can make a difference in the careers of others. Although building people is a core tenant of their mission, Suffolk still faced obstacles on its journey towards a human-centered leadership culture.
“We have many people in field-based roles. They are physically on construction sites. Their workdays start very early in the morning and continue well into the evening hours, and we’re asking them to take time out of a very high-pressure schedule for coaching while also asking them to deliver a project on time, on budget and safely,” said Wahle.
This meant rolling out the program in a way that demonstrated to Suffolk employees the long-term value they would receive from carving out time during their busy days for coaching. “We weren’t trying to solve a performance problem. We believe coaching is about helping people transform themselves from good to great,” added Wahle.