In celebration of Women’s History Month, Beehive is highlighting a group of our clients with hopes of inspiring others with their advice and insights on equitable work cultures, gender bias, mentorship and more.
We’re excited to share a conversation with Molly Weiss, Chief Human Resources Officer at Adolfson and Peterson Construction. We love Molly’s take on equitable workplace cultures and overcoming challenges as a woman in the construction industry.
What advice do you have for women in or entering the industry to overcome gender bias in the workplace?
Don’t be afraid to bring up potential biases. In my experience, many people – women and men – have ingrained biases that they are simply unaware of, or, put another way, unconscious biases. We all have these because of the ways we grew up and experienced the world around us. The trouble is that we don’t always see them and they can affect our words, decisions and actions without us knowing. The key is awareness. In my experience, most people want to do the right thing. We can help each other by pointing out when biases pop up in factual, non-judgmental ways.
One example is when I started at a male-dominated company in a male-dominated industry, I noticed I was interrupted more than I had been in other companies. I started quietly keeping track of how many times I was interrupted and eventually talked to a few of the folks who were repeat interrupters. I assumed positive intent by starting with “I’m sure you don’t realize this is happening” and explained the interruptions. I then added the impact it had on me – that it made me less likely to share my ideas because the message I was receiving was that my ideas weren’t worth hearing. The individuals I spoke with apologized and resolved to do better. I offered my help to be their partner in meetings to give them a signal, or a look, when they interrupted someone. I’m pleased to say that those who I talked to shared their efforts with others and the overall frequency of interruptions went down for everyone as a result.
What is needed to create equitable workplace cultures?
Bravery and honesty. In my work as a woman and in leading DEI work, I have found that it is critical to have honest conversations about what equity is and isn’t. Leadership needs to hear about the barriers that face women and people of color in the workplace and work to eliminate those. Leaders also need to commit to what consistent standards are and then communicate those to all. Everyone should be held to the same standard, but some employees may need different or more help to get there – that’s equity.
What challenges have you experienced as a woman specific to your industry?
I try not to think about this too much because I don’t find value in associating my challenges with the fact that I’m a woman. I am a woman and so yes of course I’ve heard the comments about my body or my place in whatever company or received pushback from men that doesn’t always make sense, but I refuse to see my gender as a limitation or a hurdle. Being a woman in a male dominated industry is a gift because of the perspective and insight that is different. If I let my gender be a limiter, it would keep me from being able to give that gift. For sure some folks might want to give the gift back, but that’s their problem, not mine.
How have you been a mentor or resource to women during this time?
I have actively sought out other women who are looking to grow and develop in their careers and offer help as a coach or mentor. It’s a passion of mine to support women to reach their full potential, so I currently mentor or coach about 3-5 women on a regular basis. Our conversations depend on where they are in their career – it could be how to take the next step in one’s career, idea sharing for small HR departments, or simply support for another woman in a male-dominated industry. I have been the beneficiary of amazing mentors and guides in my life and I feel it’s critical to pay it forward to others. I also learn just as much, if not more, from the amazing women I work with.
We’re grateful to have had the chance to hear insights from Molly. We especially enjoyed her take on equity in the workplace and being a woman in construction giving her a unique perspective and insight that is different than others.
Look for our next Women’s History Month blog post soon.