The State of Women In Construction and Where To Go From Here

Women make up only 9% of the construction industry. But organizations like the National Association of Women In Construction (NAWIC) are helping change that by empowering women to start careers in construction.

As part of National Women in Construction Week, Levelset is proud to present a free webinar on the past and future of women in the industry.

Tune in to the webinar live to join the discussion and participate in a live Q&A with the panelists.

You’ll hear:

  • Three women thought leaders in various stages of their careers share their experiences and insight
  • Trends women in the construction industry should be taking advantage of
  • Powerful results from our survey of over 1000 women working in the construction industry

Meet the panelists:

  • Melinda Gentile is Partner and Chair of Diversity & Inclusion with Peckar & Abramson’s Miami office and Groundbreaking Women in Construction Co-Founder.
  • Mary Salamone is Partner with Procopio in San Diego.
  • Meredith Thielbahr is Partner with Gordon & Rees in Seattle.

Transcript

Kathryn Barona: (00:01)

All right. Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us today. I’m Katherine Berona with level-set. We have a great panel lined up for you today. Thanks for tuning in, and I’m going to hand it off to our speakers to introduce themselves first and take it away with the state of women in construction and where to go from here. Thanks for tuning in. And also if you have any questions, please just save them for the end. And we’ll definitely address those after, um, the whole presentation has gotten through you’re really in, for a special thing today. These women construction attorneys are joining us from all over the country and, um, enjoy. Thank you.

 

Mindy Gentile: (00:47)

Thank you, Catherine. Catherine, if it’s all right, I’ll, I’ll kick off and, uh, uh, let everyone know who I am so we can begin our panel presentation. Catherine, thank you to you for putting this together today and thank you to Meredith and Mary. It has been such an honor to work with you on bringing this panel presentation to the level set attendees. So just to kick off, my name is Mindy genteel. I am a partner in the national construction law firm of Carr and Abramson. I am located in the Miami office, but current Abramson does have offices all over the United States. Uh, at PECARN Abramson. I serve as the chair of our diversity and inclusion committee, where I had our nationwide efforts to, uh, bring, uh, diversity and inclusion to Paccar and Abramson and our attorneys and employees, as well as to the industry. Uh, and, and in a larger sense, uh, and Abramson is certainly committed to their diversity equity and inclusion efforts within their own doors.

 

Mindy Gentile: (02:00)

But see this as very much a part of, uh, PECARN Abramson’s purpose to also broaden diversity within the industry as a whole, I’m proud to lead those efforts within our firm. And, um, we are excited to use today as one of our efforts to try to increase awareness toward that goal, uh, within the industry. Also, I, uh, am a co-creator and now a comodity moderator with Jan Tuckman from engineering news record of the annual groundbreaking women in construction conference. This is part of the effort that I was speaking about, uh, from PNA PECARN Abramson or PNA to increase diversity and inclusion in the industry, uh, in, in a whole last year, excuse me, last year we had over 1000 attendees at the groundbreaking women in construction conference. So our conference has become a premier talent education and, uh, a way to promote women within the industry.

 

Mindy Gentile: (03:08)

I’m extremely proud to be involved with Chadwick and look forward to many more years to come of great Bri G whip programming by way of background. I started practicing law in the mid 1980s. And to some of you that may seem like a long time ago. And in fact, it is a long time ago. Um, I did not have a real desire when I started to practice law to really get into the area of construction law. But one of the partners that I worked with as a very young associate, literally dragged me, uh, into practice in that area of the law. And it just did not take me very long to find that I had real passion for it. I loved this particular practice and I’ve never looked back. I have essentially concentrated on construction law, uh, construction dispute resolution for my entire career, and I love it as much and in some waves more today than I did, even when I got started, um, the landscape when I started in practicing construction law was different than it was, is today.

 

Mindy Gentile: (04:24)

Um, there were very, very, very few women practicing, uh, construction law. And likewise, there were very few women in the construction industry as a whole that brought with it very distinct and difficult challenges, uh, being a woman in those two industries of the law and construction, where I just did not see other representation of women in either of those areas. I think we have advanced the needle somewhat, but having said that, I don’t think that there has been a noticeable difference in, in to many of the areas that we address in diversity and inclusion. What we’re going to do today is, is hopefully move that needle a little further toward true parody, true equality, and true inclusion for women who are either practicing in construction law or in the construction industry. So I’m excited to be here with, uh, with Meredith and Mary to, uh, to do that today. So thank you.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (05:35)

Thank you, Mindy. Uh, my name is Meredith [inaudible] and I am a partner with the national firm of Gordon race. Scolion Mansa Connie. Um, Gordon race is headquartered in San Francisco, but we have as part of our 50 state platform, we have offices in every state. So we’re kind of your one-stop firm. Um, I started my practice in Seattle. I graduated from Seattle university school of law in 2009. So I have not been practicing quite as long as, um, my co panelists. And when I came out of law school, my focus was to find a midsize firm where I really would get to get my hands dirty, you know, take depositions, do research because as we all know, no matter how long you’ve been practicing your craft, you just got to dive in and, and get that experience. And so I, I landed in a construction firm, a mid-sized regional firm, and I just fell in love with it and knew I wanted to do civil litigation.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (06:34)

Uh, not only did I fall in love with lawyers, I really fell in love with the clients. I think contractors were very hard. I think they’re definitely essential to all of our communities and our infrastructure. And I just really enjoyed, um, working with them and protecting their interests in their business, um, and in assisting them with no legal issues so they could give back to their business and focus on what they enjoy and their skillset. So I worked there for about five or six years, and then I went to another regional midsize firm and did a lot of government work still in the construction arena, but I did a lot of false claims, shins, civil, investigative demands, um, and then obviously key Tam and intervene lawsuits that resulted from those, you know, whatever we were able to negotiate them, or they became formal litigation. Um, which was great because I kind of got to do a lot of private work.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (07:25)

And then when I went to my second firm, I didn’t, I was really in the federal and public contracts and then tended to go full circle. I had been with Gordon and Reese now for about four years and I had joined, um, my former mentor. And we’ll talk about slitter. He’s exactly 10 years ahead of me. Um, he jumped ship and went to Gordon and Reese a couple of years ahead of me. I got some more experience under my belt. And then he took me under my wing and I now work for his name’s Alan Estis and he is a co-chair of the national construction practice group for the whole firm. So I started my practice in Seattle. I’m licensed in multiple States. Uh, I now co-manage our Idaho office. It’s one of our newer affirms newer, um, in Idaho. And, you know, with some of the implications from the pandemic is just going crazy and growing.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (08:14)

And I think when I joined, when I officially moved to Idaho, a couple of years ago, we only had me and another partner, um, in that office. And now we’ve run about six or seven. So we obviously have partners that are like, yeah, since in Idaho, that physically reside in other States. So yeah, practices definitely all over the country. I have a couple of cases in New York right now. Um, but I’m definitely working to grow Idaho and continue my practice in Washington and Alaska. So, uh, Gordon Reese has a women initiative group, which is focused on women supporting women. I am part of that. Um, and I think it’s definitely fitting that this panel came during the day after international women’s day. So I have very much enjoyed preparing for this presentation. And I look forward to not only my, um, co-panelists point of view, but hearing your questions and thoughts at the end. I think that always raises, um, insight into keeping the dialogue going, going, and growing, um, women in our amazing industry. So thank you for having me.

 

Mary Salamone: (09:26)

Thank you, Meredith. Um, I’m batting last year, huh? My name is Mary Salamone. Um, and I’ll see, greetings from sunny Southern California. I don’t know if it’s a good morning or good afternoon, depending on where you’re located. Uh, first let me say, I’m honored to been asked by level-set to participate in this very meaningful webinar. And I I’m privileged to speak with my fellow panelists, uh, Mindy and I have known each other for a very long time. Um, so it’s nice to reconnect with her. It’s nice to meet narrative. So, um, I’ve always asked myself, gee, I looking back, I wonder how, how did I get started in, in this construction industry? It was really not due to any prior experience I had in the industry or any family member that was involved in the industry, but I I’ve been practicing exclusively in the area of construction law for going on about 34 years.

 

Mary Salamone: (10:28)

Now, I started back in 1987, um, came right out of law school. And as I said, it was not as if when I was graduated from law school, I made a conscious decision that I was gonna set down a specific path to the construction industry. What actually happened was that the law school I went to, uh, which was bakkies. And I’m sure you can’t tell that from my voice that I was not born and raised in Southern California. Um, they had an alumni program and they connected me with a former alumni who was with the national construction law firm. And he happened to be located in California. So they flew me out. I interviewed with the firm, I really enjoyed everyone that I’d met at the firm and I decided to accept their offer. And I moved cross country from the upstate New York area. So I will tell you this, it is not been, uh, the easiest of paths.

 

Mary Salamone: (11:28)

Um, I’ve been presented with, uh, a number of challenges as a woman and an extremely male dominated industry. And I hope you’ll bear with me while I share a personal story with you. That frankly profoundly influenced me along my personal journey, uh, which, which is continuing, uh, in the area of construction law. So about a year or so after I was at my first, uh, construction law firm, the senior partner came into my office. It was early in the morning, you know, for those of you that work in construction, you know, your days really start earlier. Um, because that’s when you may be getting calls from fuel people and such, but he came into my office, closed the door, sat down in a guest chair that I had across from my desk and basically said to me that he wanted to have an avuncular chat with me.

 

Mary Salamone: (12:23)

I instantly had the feeling that this was not going to be good. I had only had limited interaction with this gentleman. Barely knew him, barely had done any work for him. Uh, but here he was now sitting across from me. Um, and the first thing that he said to me was, did I understand what the word of Bunkin well, that, that was kind of the first offense. As far as I was concerned, I responded to him. I think I can figure that out. And then he proceeded to tell me that he thought I did not have what it would take to survive as an attorney in this particular industry. So at that time I had a plant that was in the corner of my office, on the floor near the window. Uh, and the firm had provided the plans part of the decor. They had all these plants and everyone’s offices, different ones, but scattered throughout the firm, he then proceeded to point to the plant that was on my floor and said to me that I was as green as that plants and that I would never make it as aware in the construction industry.

 

Mary Salamone: (13:26)

I told him that I disagreed with his assessment. At which point he got up out of the chair without saying another word walked out of my office, close the door behind him. And, and I struggled to keep my composure until you left. And in all candor, the, the moment that door closed behind him, the tears started filling my eyes and I began to panic. I was all along the California. I didn’t have any family here of any kind. I started worrying. If he fires me, how am I going to pay my rent? How am I going to pay for food? So all these thoughts start swimming through your mind, but it wasn’t long that I shed that initial reaction. And then frankly, another emotion came in and started to replace it, which was anger at his comments. And at that point I became 100% determined and driven to prove him wrong.

 

Mary Salamone: (14:24)

And I did not let his comments undermine my professional goals. So for the next several years, I frankly worked my tail off. I took every opportunity to educate myself, you know, attending seminars and such anything that I could to figure out how to advance myself in this field. Over time, I eventually became that senior partners go-to person. I was assigned to every large case that he brought through the door. And I was always his first choice, uh, of the person he would go to with any new assignment after about six years or so. I was elevated to partner status in the firm.

 

Speaker 5: (15:04)

Yeah.

 

Mary Salamone: (15:10)

Plants. I mentioned to you that were scattered throughout the office. She watered them, fertilized them, trimmed them. It’s interesting because she owned the company. Um, but her, her name was Denise. And whenever I was in my office, when Denise was coming by to tend to these plants, she would tell me, you know, Mary, please let me get you a new plant. That plant is so old. Please let me replace it. And I told her that I would never allow that plant to be replaced. And I wanted it maintained at all times. Long story short, I stayed at that firm for nearly 17 years before I finally decided to move on to another construction. And on my last day at that burn, before I walked out of my office, I turned to that very plant and said out loud, I guess we know that that plant had become that symbolic to me.

 

Mary Salamone: (16:03)

It has stayed with me for those 17 years. And every time I looked at that plant, it reminded me of that common. He made that I was as green as that point. I, now it shouldn’t mislead you to let you think that that initial comment that I got from that senior partner was the sole episode of bias I experienced at that firm. Oh no. I was treated to a few other remarks. I’ll I’ll, I’ll share just a couple more with you. Uh, one remark I heard was, you know, there were two tracks of this from the partnership track in the mommy track, and you could not do both and do both. Well, another choice comment was when I was getting my bonus check, uh, I was told to go out and buy myself a nice bikini with the money so I could go on and on.

 

Mary Salamone: (16:46)

But the point of the matter is I don’t tell you about these episodes to discourage you, but instead to motivate, because it sure as heck motivated me and while women have made great strides in this construction industry, we’re still facing obstacles that we must overcome every day to compete and to challenge the hearts and minds and this wealth sconce, male dominated world of construction. So thank you for allowing me to share with you. My rather Rocky start in the field of, uh, you know, construction law with that. I want to, uh, turn to our first topic, which essentially a survey that was conducted by, uh level-set but I’m going to start by sharing with you first, some general statistics, uh, about the industry, according to the national association of women in construction. And that organization is also known by the acronym. May WIC women currently comprise only about 9.9% of the total of people in the construction field.

 

Mary Salamone: (17:55)

And that includes those who, whose jobs are behind the desk. The number of women in the field on the front lines, as you say is roughly 1% of all construction workers. Now these numbers are rather staggering. When one considers that women make up 40%, 47% of the entire workforce. So that means the construction industry is still astoundingly skewed. Many women have avoided the field due to perceptions of traditionally male dominated industry. Uh, even still women though continue to grow in numbers in the industry with almost 33% of the companies promoting women to senior positions in 2018 while the glass ceiling is yet to be shattered in the construction industry. 13.3% of the women in construction are tradespeople and of those promoted to senior roles. 31% are in management. 21% are in construction and maintenance. And 1.5% are in service positions. Finally, 44 of the top 100 construction companies see women holding executive positions with 16% having women occupied cheap level positions.

 

Mary Salamone: (19:05)

Three of those top 100 companies have women CEOs. So we have reason to be encouraged. So now let’s turn back to the survey that was conducted by level set that was conducted in February of 2021, just this past year. And there were a thousand women in the industry that were surveyed and they were asked to why questions, uh, which we’re going to review shortly because the results are really quite interesting. But at first, like to start by sharing just a few of the demographics of that, of the survey participants, and then we’ll move into some of the questions in the answers. Um, but first, um, one of the questions that they were asked is what describes the company. You work 44% basically said they worked for a subcontractor 37% roughly said they worked for a general contractor about 11%. So they worked for material suppliers and about 5% worked for architect or engineering firms.

 

Mary Salamone: (20:06)

One of the other questions they were asked is what I’m sorry, which best describes your current role? 25% said that they were an office administrator. 18% said they are managers, uh, roughly 10% were presidents or CEOs. Roughly 10% were project managers. About another 10% were administrative assistants. And about 6% were vice presidents. What is your highest level of formal education? About 32% said they had a bachelor’s degree. 22% said they had a high school graduate. 18% said they had an associates degree. 11% had a technical college serve certain certification at about 11%, had a master’s degree.

 

Mary Salamone: (20:58)

Now I’m going to move to some generic questions. They were asked why they were simply asked. Do they agree? Do they disagree? Or were they neutral on these various subjects? The first question they were asked was people in leadership in my company encouraged respect towards women. 81% said, they agree with that statement. 12% were neutral and roughly six and a half percent disagreed. Another question, my opinions, ideas and suggestions are genuinely considered almost 80%. So they strongly agree or agree with that statement. 11% said they were neutral and 9%, so they disagreed. But another question I feel respected and valued as my male counterparts, 66% said they agreed with that. Roughly 16% were neutral and about 18%. So they disagreed another question. I would have more opportunity to advance if I were making 31% said they agreed with that. 24% were neutral on the subject. 45% said they disagreed with that statement. Next question, there are good opportunities in construction for women. 59% agreed with the statement roughly 26% were neutral and 15% disagreed.

 

Mary Salamone: (22:27)

And the file one I wanted to call to your attention is the role of women in construction. It was changing for the better 68% agreed with that comment. 27% were neutral and about 5% disagreed with that comment. So with that, let’s look at some of the specific questions that were asked and some of the responses that women were asked to actually type in. So the first question is what is the most challenging part of working in the construction straight? And you’ll see on your slide, I’m not going to read to you over every one of the comments, but there were a thousand that I was filtering through. And I tried to call out those that I thought were particularly noteworthy or those where I noticed the comment was getting pretty consistently repeated. So, um, the first one was sharing ideas for improvement, but men think they know better being spoken over, having to prove yourself more than the men.

 

Mary Salamone: (23:32)

The most challenging part of working in construction, particularly as a woman, as being constantly overlooked by my male counterparts, even with amazing ideas and valuable input, it’s never as important as the man in the room and not being taken seriously. The next question that they were asked is what is your favorite thing about working in the construction industry and a number of people made comments along the lines of the first bullet point you see, and the last that they derived a great deal of satisfaction off of seeing the finished product of, of their hardworking efforts. Um, another comment was feeling like I’m a trail blazer and helping future women not have to face the same struggles than I do. Um, gay to help the community in a tangible way to show people that you were wrong about a woman in a man’s world. And if we, he, this by several more comments were selected, uh, the look of surprise.

 

Mary Salamone: (24:32)

So many men get when they realize how knowledgeable I actually am in the field. Uh, and the industry is constantly changing and evolving. The participants were also asked, of course, then what is your least favorite thing about working in construction? And I, I chose a few representative responses you’ve seen here, uh, the lack of other women in similar roles to talk to and grow with the lack of respect in the industry. One of the ones that, uh, drew my attention was this comment, misogynistic men. Um, and I’m going to tell you another quick story is to why that, that drew my attention. I was working on a case, not that long ago, but a couple of years ago, and I was representing a large national construction firm. And one of the people I had to interact with, uh, as part of this litigation was their project executive who was a gentleman, probably in his late fifties is my estimation.

 

Mary Salamone: (25:29)

And just with my dealings with this gentleman, I observed that he was just unduly harsh towards women, including myself. Um, he often raised his voice, uh, to us that the women involved, uh, in just generally was more difficult to deal with. And so he was going to be deposed in the case. And I had some concerns about him, genuinely was a witness. And when I, I target a witness that I think could have cause problems and testimony, I bring in a consultant service I’d use that helps me for jury consulting and trial consultant and, and witness practice. Um, and I do that sometimes. So if I’m dealing with the in-house counsel, they can see the opinion of somebody else, uh, in the assessment of a witness. Cause it, it certainly would affect strategy going forward. So I brought in, I usually deal with a female consultant, but in this case I decided I was going to bring in a male consultant because of the individual project.

 

Mary Salamone: (26:28)

Exactly. If I was dealing with, I felt he wouldn’t take constructive criticism as well from the woman as he went from a man. So I elected to bring in a male consultant from that company and we do mock testimonies of the consulting can see how the witness’s still in question. Well, on this particular project, um, there were two women that were the project manager roles. One that was working for my client, the general contractor and the counterparty, the owner was a woman as well. So I targeted questions around these women and his response kept coming back on the order of, well, um, our project manager, wasn’t Hispanic female, and the owner’s project manager, wasn’t Hispanic female. And you know how they can, uh, or they can tend to be, you know, quick tempered at which point the jury consultant says, wait a minute, stop. You cannot answer questions in that bench.

 

Mary Salamone: (27:27)

And this project executive said, why not? What’s the problem? He said, well, you’re, you’re stereotyping women that you, you shouldn’t do that. That’s unacceptable. And he said, why don’t we start with a promise? And he says, well, you sound like a massage at which point the project executives said, what does that mean? So we knew we had a problem. Uh, the in-house general counsel was there, witnessed this whole exchange, um, and decided time to alter strategy. So anytime I see that a commentary reminds me of that episode. And so of course I had to include that on my list. Um, the last comment, the good old boys club still exists in a lot of places throughout the industry that that comment resonated with me. So I chose that as well. So, um, moving to the, the next line is what advice would you give to a woman just starting out in the construction industry?

 

Mary Salamone: (28:18)

One comment was keep working to do it better. And the right company there is room to grow and learn. It’s a great industry to be a part of, but understand. It still tends to be a man’s world. So learn to hold burn, keep yourself worth close and know that you hold value in the company. You’re working for another comment, uh, stand up for yourself and don’t sell yourself short on knowledge and work ethic. And I saw this one a lot, the last one put on a layer of fixed scan. That that was a relatively common, sorry, common comment that I noticed. Um, going to the next slide again, carrying on with what advice would you give to a woman just starting out in the industry, be confident in yourself and your skills. Uh, if your passion for what you do is anything like mine convert, any negativity that might come your way into motivation and drawings, and that I take to heart because that’s exactly what I did when I started in this business.

 

Mary Salamone: (29:13)

I agree with Mindy when she and I both started in the mid eighties, we were an extremely rare breed in this industry. There were very few female construction attorneys. Uh, so we were certainly pioneers and, um, had a deal with a lot of grief, uh, as a result of that, uh, seek out training and never stop learning again, something else I firmly subscribed to. Don’t take it personally, set your pride aside because you will get angry frequently and distracted from your goals. Again, another comment that resonates with me in that regard, Altru you. I remember I was a partner in the firm and having executives at construction companies dubbed me as their little worker bee, um, expressions like that. I did not take those things to heart. I just put my head down, kept moving forward. And then the last question the participants in the survey were asked is, would you like to add anything else?

 

Mary Salamone: (30:11)

So this gave these ladies an opportunity to just share some thoughts that may be outside of the specific questions they were being asked. Um, we need more women in construction, uh, amen to that. Uh, construction is ready for innovation and women can bring that change to this much needed. The field is excellent for women that are goal-driven and detail oriented. Um, constantly proving yours as good or as better as your male counterpart might be exhausting. But at the end of the day, you still proved yourself. Um, and women are just as powerful as men, but these are all very positive comments and good productive feedback. So at this point, we’re going to segue from the survey and we’re going to move to a topic of implicit bias. And of course I can’t help myself. I’m going to tee this subject up for Mindy with another personal story.

 

Mary Salamone: (31:06)

I’d have to share on this topic. I’m sure you’re all thinking. I must be wearing a coat of armor with some of these stories I’m telling, but I have lived the tale and I have survived. I kept my sanity along the way. So basically after a few years of practicing law, the law firm, I mentioned to you where I started my career. They finally allowed me to start taking and defending witness deposition. So that was a big deal. I think I was a second or third year attorney where I was allowed to do that. I was unleashed. And I remember when I would walk into conference rooms and opposing counsel’s office where these depositions were taking place. As soon as I walked into the conference room, I was immediately identified as you must be the court reporter. No, I’m not the court reporter. Um, in fact, when I would check in at the receptionist desk, the female receptionist would always say to me, I guess you must be the court reporter.

 

Mary Salamone: (32:04)

Um, so I can understand how something like that would happen. As I’ve mentioned, it was kind of rare to see women involved in construction cases. And I got to the place where it didn’t bother me. I learned to just simply shrug it off. But unfortunately what happened to me in the late eighties, early nineties is still apparently alive and well today. Um, because it’s, it’s over 30 years later now and I’m, I’m still encountering this issue. Uh, by way of an example, I was involved in arbitration in a highway project in Northern California. And despite the pandemic, we actually conducted evidentiary hearings. In-person uh, at a hotel conference room. We booked a conference room where we each had about a thousand square feet of space around us on so we could exercise ample social distancing, uh, and I’d never met the arbitrator. I’d never been on a zoom meeting with the arbitrator.

 

Mary Salamone: (33:01)

We’d only dealt with him either by email or on phone calls. So I walked into the first day of hearing. This was in September of 2020, and I had one of those briefcases that’s on wheels. Um, and so I really, my briefcase into this hotel conference center and immediately the arbitrator gets up and says to me a USB or a query border. And I thought you reached out, Oh, no, not this again, but I very politely said to him, no, I’m actually Mary Salamone. Um, and I guess to his defense, he was in his late sixties. So maybe, uh, this was a remnant of, of that era. Um, and again, there is a small branch in the womb. There are construction lawyers, but I was not going to let that ruffle me rapidly, uh, or, or get me off to a bad start. And, you know, all’s, well, that ends well. Uh, by the time I concluded that arbitration, he had awarded my client 100% of our damages, which were nearly $7 million. And right now I have an application for legal fees in front of him, uh, under his consideration. So, uh, seem like a rough start, but when all was said and done, I, I guess I must’ve been disrespect, even though it started off thinking as a court reporter. And with that, I’ll turn it over to you.

 

Mindy Gentile: (34:18)

Thank you, Mary. Uh, Mary, you have set the stage for us perfectly to talk about our next topic, which is implicit bias. And so let me run through some fundamental concepts before I do that. I just want to put it into context. I am sure why Mary was talking that all of us that are on the panel and watching this panel presentation, we’re doing something similar and that is we were breathing. And probably none of us really thought about the fact that we were breathing while Mary was doing her exercise. But I just bet you, if I asked you now to think about your breathing, to concentrate on your breathing, and I asked you to, for example, take in a breath and hold it for four seconds, that you could do that and then release it. When I asked you to release it, we’re going to put that into context, but just think about this concept of doing something so subconsciously so unconsciously that you’re not even thinking about it, but when you call your attention to it, you can actually change the way that you were doing that activity in this case breathing.

 

Mindy Gentile: (35:34)

So keep that in mind, as we talk about the implicit bias concept, this is so, so fundamental to so many of the things that Mary was talking about, uh, just moments ago about the history of women in construction law, the history of women in the construction industry and how implicit bias and implicit associations affect the women and or other groups of, uh, underrepresented groups in this industry. So what is implicit bias or an implicit association? It has many definitions, but generally it is an attitude or stereotype that affects our understanding actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. Just as we were talking about with breathing a moment ago, these implicit associations and implicit biases exist within us without even our conscious thought or our conscious awareness. These biases are again an unconsciously. You’re going to hear me say that word over and over, because it’s so important to recognize how they are unconscious and not subject to our intentional thought.

 

Mindy Gentile: (36:55)

So they’re unconsciously held set of associations about a particular group or an individual. And these associations that we Harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about other people based on their, their group, their characteristics as a race, ethnicity, age, sex appearance, all of that can be impacted by our implicit biases. Next slide, please. Some critical concepts for you to know, as you think about implicit bias and how it affects us. Uh, implicit biases are pervasive. Every single human being breathing on this earth, possesses implicit biases and implicit associations. And I wish almost that they hadn’t given it the term implicit biases because while our implicit associations could be described as negative, um, biases don’t necessarily have to take on a negative connotation and our implicit associations can, can, can cover the gamut from negative to positive. So it’s very much a part of the human condition.

 

Mindy Gentile: (38:07)

Every single person has them. They develop over the course of a lifetime based on your childhood, your upbringing, your religious beliefs, your school experiences, your community experiences. And as we have gotten deeper and deeper into media and social media, and not just having three channels on the television, which once again, I’m, I’m aging myself. And instead, now we’ve got 300 or more channels on the television. Anyway, as we have more and more media in our lives and social media now, Facebook and Twitter, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and all of that, all of these, uh, images, uh, that we see through the media often are cited through research, um, that they can impact our implicit associations. There are some critical concepts that I would like you to keep in mind here. Again, I’ve told you that these associations are implicit. They are subconscious or unconsciously activated, uh, and, and they can impact our actions and our reactions.

 

Mindy Gentile: (39:16)

So again, they’re in voluntarily activated, uh, even without our awareness or control, it can be an association or reaction that is favorable, can be very favorable or unfavorable. And while implicit and explicit biases are related, they are distinct mental constructs. Let’s think about the, the, um, experience Mary was telling us about with the potted plant, that she was as green as that pot plant and was never going to make it. That is probably a representation, a good representation of an explicit association that, that man, uh, voiced to marry. He just did not think that she was going to have it, uh, because she was green and she was a woman, but perhaps he, didn’t what you think about this. What if he hadn’t expressed that to Mary, but when he walked in and saw Mary sitting there in his mind, maybe even without consciously processing it, he said, Oh, geez, this woman’s never got, she’s a woman.

 

Mindy Gentile: (40:22)

She’s never going to make it in, in construction law. If he hadn’t voiced that to Mary, Mary might not have known that he felt that way, but those thoughts and those associations could have very much dictated how he treated Mary. He probably would not have given her much mentoring or much opportunity to advance within the law firm. So while the implicit and the explicit, like I said, maybe associated they are different. Let’s talk about instinct versus bias because I’ve said that, uh, not all implicit associations are negative. They can be very positive. Uh, what if you have an implicit association, maybe you had teachers in school that, that led you to believe that people who wear glasses, which is why I’m wearing mine by the way, are inherently intelligent and brilliant. Well, if you just think that you, you may not even question that association.

 

Mindy Gentile: (41:22)

So you may treat people who wear glasses with, uh, an heightened degree of respect, uh, for their intellectual ability. Then you might someone who doesn’t wear glasses. So it can be a very positive association. And sometimes we draw these instinctive reactions to, to be a source of support or protection and to bring us comfort and less familiar experiences. So the question is, as, as we move forward to what we hope will be a more enlightened approach to diversity and equality and inclusion, uh, how do these implicit implicit biases impact our ability to move forward to a greater enlightenment? How are people impacted by our failure, our failure, your own failure to recognize your implicit biases or to reset and take a more objective view. Once you realize you have just had an implicit association who has helped, or who is hurt, what if the immediate reaction that someone has is misleading or wrong?

 

Mindy Gentile: (42:39)

And we go forward to act on those implicit associations without an accurate reset, is that fair? And just, well, for example, Mary’s, uh, partner, uh, who thought not much more of her than a potted plant in the beginning days, uh, ended up using Mary as his go-to person. So he did reset his associations and in that way, Mary was able to accomplish all that she accomplished, uh, in that firm. But if he had not had recognized these associations and had not reset his view, it could have meant that Mary was constantly pushed down, pushed down, push down and would not have reached the levels of achievement that she did. So the question also is, is the impact greater or more frequently experienced by those who have been historically underrepresented or less privileged? Well, I pose that question to you, and I suggest that the answer is yes, that those who have been historically unrepresentative probably take much more of an impact by these implicit associations, implicit biases.

 

Mindy Gentile: (43:57)

So, so what is not going to change when we’re talking about implicit biases, having implicit biases and associations is not going to change. As I said, it is part of the human condition, drawing quick, instinctive reactions and responses is perfectly normal within a human. And we can’t expect anyone to stop from doing that, uh, nor do we, but let’s think about what can change and what can change is that instinctive reactions can change over time, kinda like Mary’s partner, uh, and we can change what we do with our instinctive reactions, but the instinct to react will not change. What we want to do is change the gears that, that turn very normally in our mind, uh, next side to, and to see if we can to interrupt the way that they are turning, because everyone is affected, uh, by biasing, by stereotyping in very subtle, more nuanced and less obvious ways.

 

Mindy Gentile: (45:04)

You might’ve heard it as being described as microaggressions. Uh, and, and as, uh, individuals who are not represented by the majority in, in, uh, an industry like construction or construction law, these micro aggressions, it’s kind of like the death by a thousand cuts. It, it, the thousands, the cut may be the one that finally, uh, uh, brings you to your knees. But as Mary said, uh, in order to move forward, you put your head down and you progress. But we want to, uh, through the conversation today, at least start to understand how our individual associations born of implicit bias can be an obstacle, or maybe even advantage, uh, in the support and development of others, as well as ourselves. I want to say this one concept very loudly. So I’m going to shout. This is not a matter of finding fault or blame. Every human being has an implicit has these implicit associations and implicit biases.

 

Mindy Gentile: (46:12)

So it’s not a matter of casting judgment, particularly when you are dealing with your own recognition of how implicit biases might affect yourself or someone else. It’s a natural response. The key is to recognize that these implicit associations exist and without judgment, even on yourself to then say, Oh, I just had an implicit bias moment. I’m going to stop no reset the way I’m thinking about this individual or this group, so that I can go on in a more productive manner. We, we want to pivot because these implicit associations and biases we want, we want to stop them from being in a disruptive force. And if we recognize where the implicit bias exists and not allow ourselves to act or react as our biases may dictate, we can stop the cycle of these implicit associations from, uh, harming the advancement of women in construction and in construction law, by pivoting, by separating our implicit associations and biases from our actions and reactions and not allowing ourselves to act or react as our biases may dictate.

 

Mindy Gentile: (47:30)

We can deliberately separate those associations and empower and prevent those from dictating how we act and react to the goal here is to identify implicit biases and to pause without judgment so that the cycle of reaction can be interrupted. We want to learn the skills for taking effective action in the face of long established, automatic thoughts and feelings. And I know that that is a lot to throw out to you, uh, as you’re listening to this discussion today, but if we had, you know, four days, I could go on for four days talking about this, but please take note of this concept and think about it, and maybe do a little more reading on your own as to how these implicit associations implicit biases can affect the advancement of women in construction law and in the construction industry as a whole. So Meredith having set that foundation, uh, for how implicit biases are very much a part of advancing women, uh, in our industry. Let me turn it over to you to further the discussion on that.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (48:43)

Great. Um, thank you, Mindy. So the third segment of our three-part discussion is going to talk about breaking barriers and looking into the future. And I really think that this third section is a great segue into what both Mary and Minnie discussed as far as, you know, the survey results, and we need more women in construction and proving yourself. Um, and I want to give some, some specific examples of, you know, building your toolbox to making yourself an invaluable part of your team, and then also ways, um, to eliminate implicit bias, both in others and in yourself. Um, because again, we all have those. So one of the questions from the survey results that stuck out to me was what is your favorite thing about working in construction? And the answer to that was proving that I can do better, faster with beautiful results. And I just love that.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (49:36)

Um, but the question is how to get those tangible results, right? We can talk about it. Um, but how do you implement that and, and really improve yourself in your, in your office and your company, your firm, whatever it may be. And, um, I’m a big believer and I’ve been fortunate that I’ve entered the construction stratosphere a little bit later than Mindy and Mary did. And I think we’ve seen some positive growth, um, because of them kind of being trailblazers for, for women. And, um, I’m thankful to that, but I’m definitely a believer in, you know, I’ve had, I’ve had similar stories that, that Mary shared, and I kind of put my head down and said, okay, how can I make myself valuable for me? And also others where those implicit bias go drop away from my superiors and coworkers, because just see it, they see the, uh, uh, female in it, in the construction industry is, you know, kicking butt.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (50:35)

So how do you do that? You do that for some things like this seminars, training webinars and stay current and fresh. Um, you don’t need to, you know, if you’re, if you’re a field person or you’re in the office, you don’t need to be an expert in everything, just learn to issue spot. Um, and we’ll talk about those a little bit on the next side, but, um, knowing what your company needs and kind of being ahead of that and creating value for yourself and bringing you ideas, I think is just paramount that I’ve seen it for me personally, in success in my firms. Um, and then building relationships with lawyers, consultants, people in your industry that aren’t necessarily in your office. Um, like one of my, my best girlfriends from college, she is now a principal at a big, uh, construction company in Seattle. And we kind of both grew the ladder together.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (51:22)

And it’s always nice to have people in your own firm or your office that you have connections with and people in the industry, but outside, obviously those conversations can be different and they’re all important. So seek out training and never stop learning, whether it be formal or informal with the relations chips you have next slide, please. So educate yourself and then you’ll, you will empower yourself. I’m a big believer in this. So one of the questions was what advice would you give women that are just starting out in the construction industry and have a strong sense of self confidence and know your worth? And I think that that’s just beautifully said, um, so examples of this, which obviously each of these in themselves, those could be two hour webinars or CLS for attorneys. Um, but some yeah, um, things that came to mind and looking at the attendee list was like contract drafting and managing risks before contract ex execution and work starts.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (52:16)

So, you know, if you, in your role have the ability to take a look at the contract documents and, you know, every state’s different on things that are enforceable like liquidated damages, consequential damages, what’s the venue in dispute resolution provisions, um, oftentimes where the project is located, controls a lot of the law and how, um, certain provisions are enforced. So if you can get your hands on that and you have the ability to sort of spot check that and bring this to the forefront. Um, again, I think that makes you a valuable member of the team, and it also obviously protects your company and project administration who much smoother, for example, change orders, how those are negotiated and executed. Those are all really important things to get ahead of it. Um, you know, before the NTP is even issued lien law, as we all know, lien law is the statute.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (53:05)

It’s a creature of statute and it districtly enforced, mine’s notice requirements filing a formal lien. If you don’t get paid, all of those things are strictly enforcing your statutory and they change in every state. So one thing I do for my clients a lot is I will give them a little cheat sheet that they can have on their desk, whether they’re first year contractor or to know their rights and know the deadlines for each. So if you are with a company that does work across multiple jurisdictions and in different, um, locations, this is something I would, um, again, if you’re, if your role is where you’re managing these things from a payment from payment, um, view, take a look at these and obviously, you know, call an attorney if you want, or just sometimes it’s very easy to find these resources online and get ahead of those things.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (53:54)

Um, job posting requirements, um, PPP, as we all know, has been a big deal with small contractors with COVID. So these qualifying forms are deemed certifications for, you know, compliances later questions. So if you are in a role where you’re filling out some of these forms for your company, um, make sure that you’re doing them correctly, work with an accountant or with an, a lawyer, um, if you’re really a small business. And, um, I know that the requirements are changing and I think under the Trump administration, you could get the PPP loan. You couldn’t get the PPP loan. If you had a, any sort of felony record now under the Biden administration, you can, but it can’t be a, um, uh, it has to, it has to be like a non white collar felony. You can’t be like a financial felony. So criminals can now get, you know, PVP loan depending on the, on the record.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (54:49)

So again, these forms can be certifications under like the false claims act, make sure they’re filled out complete. So again, these are just some issues that I thought of another thing is document retention. As we all know, you know, an implicit bias could be, well, men aren’t as good as, as, as detailed documents. Let’s not say that, but women can be very good at that. Um, so take a look at your document retention. How has your daily reports, what are your weekly reports, things like that, because if you ever get in an issue later, I always find that putting that puzzle pieces of the puzzle back together for finance can be the hardest thing. So what is your document retention look like? And, um, if you ever needed to prove a claim or defend one down the road, you know, how would that help or hurt you? So those are some ideas that I thought of that again, could segue into further discussions, but keep fresh on these things, uh, in areas that you do projects. And I think you will find yourself, um, an important part of the discussion, you know, internally and, and adding value to your company. Next slide, please.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (55:52)

So value through diversity, as we all know, diversity enhances overall performance. So, you know, I know in our group, um, we’re a very diverse group, my Seattle based construction practice group, and we all have similar qualities and core values, but we, we all gain those, um, from different backgrounds and experiences. So whether you were an athlete or you were in the military, that’s okay to want to hire people that, you know, want to work hard. But I find that that is elevated when you, um, interview and you work with people from different backgrounds and experiences. Don’t hire people that are just like you, because you actually, they’re almost your mentor mentors more than you will be their mentors, because you can grow from their experiences and your group will just be elevated, um, and value each role on your team. Not no one role is better than the other, they’re different, but they’re all essential.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (56:48)

And all of your team members should view feel, um, valued and important and including yourself. So be asked for what you want and be prepared to get it. I’m a big believer in that we all, we all do that we ask for what we want and then wow, we actually got it. So what does that mean? And be prepared to rise to the challenge? I remember my boss said, okay, Meredith, it’s time for you to start building your own practice. And then he supported me and it’s like, okay, I got to go do that. So, um, again, get those tools in your toolbox and be prepared, ask for what you want and be prepared to get it. Um, I think establishing trust and rapport, you know, monthly outings, offsite socialization gives teams, team members, the ability to appreciate one another for who they are and not just the jobs they do.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (57:31)

We all know that you don’t have to be friends with everybody you work with, but really having authentic respect for each other and, and knowing people’s backgrounds. I mean, everyone’s fighting a battle that we don’t know. Um, it helps you eliminate their bias, but also your, your own bias and it breaks those barriers down. And I think, especially with COVID, we have all seen the effects of, you know, not being able to interact face-to-face and, and so finding ways to do that in this new environment, I think is really important, whether it’s one thing I did for some clients is we did like a little, a wind event where we shipped everybody wine. And we did a wine tasting obviously after work hours and we collaborated and had a social event and it was great. It was a lot of fun. So, um, another thing is this is not a, you know, an HR webinar by any means, but I always find working out differences, um, with genuine respect, informally does wonders.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (58:26)

I think a lot of times we just, if something, you know, happens, even if it’s bad, try to communicate with those people and understand where they’re coming from and you’re coming from. And sometimes it’s just a miscommunication. Um, I think a lot of times people don’t intend things. People have bad days. People have bad days at home that doesn’t come out correctly. So we’ve all had those conversations and they don’t necessarily come out to begin with, but it’s a learned skill, right? You get better at it. You get better at approaching someone, uh, in person versus an email. Sometimes that’s better. So learn, learn to work out differences and communicate, communicate, communicate. And my biggest thing is be a positive example. I mean, I’ve been fortunate that my mentor, um, is a male and he’s a minority and he’s exactly 10 years ahead of me.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (59:14)

And it’s because somebody, uh, worked with him and he doesn’t those biases with women where he’s worked with women. So it kind of has a top-down approach. And, um, he’s a positive example of that. So I’m a positive example of that and the next idea, creating mentorship. So it’s easy to see yourself in others and foster those relationships, right? Uh, don’t underestimate the value in establishing diverse relationships because oftentimes you’re going to get just as much out of those as, um, that mentor mentee will get out of their relationship. And, you know, again, this, this comes to building your team as well. So you strengthen others in areas that you may be weakened. And we don’t let people that have the exact same background and are exactly like you because you only need one Meredith or one minute you want, you want a diverse group of people, and that’s just going to elevate your office and your overall work performance, uh, consider a formal mentorship program.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (01:00:12)

I know we, some of our groups in our firm have that, but mentorship doesn’t require formality. Um, I have mentors and mentees internal external. Some of them I would say are not necessarily in the construction industry, but they’re a sounding board for me. Um, and they’ve, they were a trailblazer in their own industry and our tops. Then how did they get there as far as marketing, things like that. So it doesn’t doesn’t need to be formal. I know a lot of firms are implementing, um, you know, mentor, mentorship program, mentee programs, and that’s not required if, if that’s something that draws to you, you know, you can make that happen with some of the authentic relationships that you’re developing. And, you know, we all know mentors advocate for your mentees, my boss, certainly. And then other mentors will say, Hey, Meredith would be great for that. And they, you know, push my name for it. So, um, I strongly encourage that mentors do that for their matches. And then that flows down to kind of the next generation. And like I said, mentees asked for what you need and be prepared to get it. I think having strong women in construction, you know, to, to have a voice, um, and work hard. And then when you get it, you know, do a great job at it and be prepared for that. Um, next slide.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (01:01:25)

And that’s it. I think we finished right on time. So any questions for either Mary Mindy and I, um, we’re a little over, but I think we can, it’s not a problem if people want to type in questions and have a discussion,

 

Kathryn Barona: (01:01:40)

Thank you all three, so much Siri, Meredith and Mindy. That was a wonderful presentation. And I know whoever tuned in and watched really got a lot from that. And yes, if you have any questions type it in the chat box, but I also wanted to mention, as Meredith talked about empowering yourself and educate yourself, um, level set actually has a lot of resources on our website. One thing that we just started was our credit management Academy. So for any credit managers out there watching, we have a whole course now that is, um, released on our website and it’s all, and it is a huge educational resource for all of you credit managers. And there’s also resources for every state about lien law as well and notices and all these things. And I think a lot of people, um, they bring that value to the table when they are educated and know those, those nuances and technical information. So I just wanted to say that, and I think we have, where’s this Q and a box. Um, Tara, I don’t know if you’re in the background there, but the Q and a panel box icon. It says there’s one on there, but it’s not popping up for unfortunately. Um, but also

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (01:03:16)

Are there local chapters of the women in construction group.

 

Kathryn Barona: (01:03:21)

Okay. Thanks Meredith her name, there are local chapters and I believe it’s name wave.org. You can go to their website and they also have a Nate WIC women page on LinkedIn. Um, if you’re on LinkedIn, I say, check that out. And also during women in construction week this whole week, they are having programs and sponsored events. So, um, you can definitely go check that out there. I’m sure their own Facebook, um, local chapters. I’ve seen some here and there. So check that out. Um, let’s see. Oh yeah, there we go. Name with dad work and, um, actually the neighborhood president tuned in today. So thank you for being here, Anne. And, um, she also shared her email address there in the chat box as well. So I encourage you to get involved with that. And here are our panelists email addresses if you want to follow up with them or thank them or whatever. So I think if we don’t have any questions out there, we can conclude just right on time here. So, and I know we got a few chats in that it was a great program and to say thank you to everyone.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (01:04:49)

Thank you, Katherine, for allowing us to present and Mary and Meredith, it’s been a pleasure bringing this panel presentation with you. Thank you.

 

Kathryn Barona: (01:05:00)

And that’d be women in construction week. Yeah.

 

Meredith Thielbahr: (01:05:04)

Yay. Bye-bye thank you.

 

Kathryn Barona: (01:05:11)

Yeah.