Women in construction
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Jennifer Todd
LMS General Contractors

The youngest Black woman to earn a CSLB (A) General Engineering license in California, Jennifer Todd leads LMS General Contractors in demolition, disaster recovery, and more. Recognized for her trailblazing spirit and industry expertise, she's a 2020 Outstanding Woman in Construction in Construction Business Owner Magazine, who shattered glass ceilings to become the first Black woman on the magazine's cover.

Jennifer shared with us her unique insights about company policies that can help promote gender equality and foster a culture of innovation in construction companies.

Should companies implement specific policies or practices to promote gender equality in the construction workforce?

Companies absolutely should implement specific policies that promote gender equality in the construction workforce. It’s about shifting the focus projects to people. The industry understands how to open billion dollar systems and infrastructure but seems unable to solve labor shortage.

Leaders have to duty to protect its work from unsafe and harmful situation even verbal harassment is deemed unsafe. The US construction industry has the 4th highest suicide rate. Women leave the trades at three times the rate of men. It’s unacceptable. Today’s workforce desire for companies where they are seen, heard, and respected.

Yes. It's just a matter of zero tolerance. When you show that no one is above the rules. You have to lead by example.

If you are always allowing certain individuals to misbehave or behave inappropriately just because they are a 'good worker' - then what you are saying to other people is that you don'tcare about what they are feeling. You are not concerned about their health, well-being, and safety. It starts with zero tolerance. Have a conversation with them, and if they do it again... they are gone. That's it. There are so many good people out there that you don't have to keep the bad apples.

What strategies has your firm employed to attract and retain women in construction roles and foster a culture of innovation, advancement, and leadership?

We've found that simply being present and engaging with our employees personally has been instrumental in attracting and retaining women in construction roles.

Recognizing that everyone has good and bad days, we make a concerted effort to understand each individual's personality and identify their short-term and long-term career goals from the outset of their employment.

As owners, we take it upon ourselves to support and propel their aspirations forward. Regular check-ins every couple of months allow us to stay connected and address any concerns proactively. By demonstrating genuine care and concern for our employees' well-being and career development, we foster a culture where they feel valued and supported, ultimately encouraging them to stay with us.

Creating an open space for communication ensures that any issues or grievances can be addressed promptly, preventing dissatisfaction from festering and leading to turnover. Our goal is to create an environment where every employee feels heard, respected, and empowered to thrive.

Are there any specific programs or initiatives that have particularly attracted women to the industry? Please describe.

Absolutely. I'm passionate about attracting women to the construction industry, which is why I established the non-profit organization, A Greener Tomorrow. Our apprenticeship program was specifically designed to support women and minorities by providing hands-on training in heavyequipment operation and environmental remediation. This program combines classroom instruction with on-the-job experiences, including an introduction to demolition work.

The program has been particularly successful in attracting women because it offers two key benefits: flexibility and support. We understand the importance of accommodating diverse needs, and our program allows women to balance their personal lives with their professional goals. Additionally, we provide mentorship and guidance throughout the program, fostering a supportive environment where women feel empowered to thrive in the construction industry.

This year, we're thrilled to announce the production of a five-part documentary series, Breaking Barriers, showcasing women leaders in the construction industry. As a woman with over 16 years of experience in this field, I understand the challenges of feeling isolated. This docu-series aims to change that. By highlighting the journeys and achievements of other women in construction, we hope to inspire and motivate future generations. We want women across the AEC industries to see themselves reflected in these stories, feel empowered to overcome challenges, and find a sense of community and belonging.

Have you encountered any challenges in implementing these policies or practices? If so, please describe.

Implementing these policies and practices has indeed presented its challenges, primarily due to the inherent resistance to change within the construction industry. As one of the oldest sectors, construction has traditionally been slow to embrace change.

People expect more from their employers, as they should. Today, employees are vocal about their desire to be seen, heard, and valued for their contributions in the workplace. Construction leaders have a duty to be intentional in curtailing the workforce deficit because affects all of us.

What additional policies or practices should construction companies adopt to create a more inclusive environment for women?

Companies must prioritize intentional efforts to create a more inclusive environment for women in construction. Recognizing that women constitute 50.5% of the population and minorities comprise 49.5% of the country, it's crucial to attract and retain diverse talent actively. This entails collaborating with women-led organizations, shifting marketing strategies to be more inclusive, and fostering a supportive community within the industry.

Construction companies can cultivate a more equitable and forward-thinking workforce by proactively addressing the labor shortage and embracing diversity.