Building a safe haven for at risk youth in Cambridge

Skanska’s Boston team is demonstrating what #BuildingWhatMatters means through their efforts to build a new homeless facility for Y2Y Harvard Square, a student-run overnight shelter in Cambridge, Mass. Our team donated their time and skills to build the new center, which is providing a safe haven for young adults going through tough times. In this latest installation of our Building What Matters series, we take a closer look at how Y2Y Harvard Square is impacting their Cambridge community.

Consider the following statistics: in the whole Boston area, there are only 12 beds set aside for homeless young adults under 24. Worse still, a quarter of homeless youth in Massachusetts have aged out of the foster system, and many struggle with mental health issues. Tired of having to turn away teens from the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter where she volunteered, 2014 Harvard graduate Sarah Rosenkrantz and her classmate Sam Greenberg decided to take action by starting a new, student-run homeless shelter aimed at youth in need, which they named Y2Y Harvard Square. But first they needed to figure out how to build it, and then bring it to reality. That’s where Skanska came in.

Our Boston office heard about the Y2Y initiative from the community and realized they had the tools and expertise to help. A team led by Senior Project Manager Jim Craft donated its time to work with the Y2Y directors and the designers to provide an estimate, a target budget, spearhead a design-assist process, and ask Skanska’s trade contractor partners to pitch in for labor and material donations. In all, the stakeholders donated $350,000 worth of labor and materials to the project.


A Skanska team member signs her name to the shelter’s dry wall next to the motto: “Hope is here” at the project’s groundbreaking event.

The shelter opened just a few weeks ago and now provides 22 beds to homeless young adults between 18 and 24 years old. The shelter also includes a daytime “drop-in” center, where guidance and training services for the betterment of homeless and disadvantaged Cambridge youth. “They can’t go to adult shelters because they get eaten alive there,” City Councilor Marc McGovern told The Boston Globe. “These kids really don’t have a place, even in Cambridge, where they can go and feel safe.” Y2Y Harvard Square will be that place.

The construction encompassed renovating a 4,300-square-foot space in the basement of the First Parish Church in Cambridge. The space includes a medical office, management office, lounge area and function room. The renovation also included: installing new sprinklers, new lighting, and new kitchen equipment, repairing the HVAC system, and an upgrading the fire alarm system. The shelter is projected to serve 130 youth in the first year alone and will offer day-time services as well as an overnight shelter. These services will provide young people with immediate sanctuary, pathways out of homelessness, and opportunities for advocacy and leadership development.  “Young people who are homeless are more recent to being homeless. They’re in crisis,” Y2Y’s Greenberg told the Boston Business Journal.  As such, Greenberg added, providing newly homeless youth these services “can be a critical intervention point.”

151106.008 The Skanska team joined Senator Elizabeth Warren at Y2Y’s opening celebration.

One of the project’s unique building challenges was incorporating donations from the community, said Skanska Project Manager Carolyn Jamison who was a part of the Y2Y team. “Individuals and companies have been so lovely and offered to provide numerous donated items but unless they fit seamlessly into the design, precious time and money can be expended in the effort to incorporate these items.  Finding that balance between making the required adjustments to repurpose a donated item versus sticking with the original plan can be difficult.  It was a tight schedule and it was so important that we opened by November. We needed the shelter to be running before winter comes!”

Design challenges aside, Jamison said she is inspired to work on Y2Y because of her own experience seeing homelessness in the city. “You can’t spend that much time in Cambridge without being impacted by the homeless situation,” she said. “We like to build things that matter, and it’s always great when you get an opportunity to combine construction with something more altruistic and serves a greater purpose.”

How are you #BuildingWhatMatters? Share your stories with us on Twitter @SkanskaUSA.

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How we are helping infrastructure projects be more sustainable

Skanska’s involvement with Envision started four years ago when I cold called Harvard University’s Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure, one of the collaborators behind this sustainable infrastructure rating tool.

I had heard about Envision, which was not yet rolled out, and it greatly interested me: After all, it seemed only natural that infrastructure be sustainable, and therefore that we should seek to minimize negative effects on communities and the environment while pushing to maximize resiliency, public benefits and flexibility over generations of use. Skanska’s desire to be a leader in green construction motivated me to share with company leaders what Envision meant for our industry, and how our company might support this initiative, which aligns with the Skanska Color Palette strategic green business framework.

Fast forward to today, and Envision is quickly becoming the industry standard by which to measure, guide and improve the long-term sustainability of civil infrastructure. Skanska’s senior leaders see the value in Envision, and have made it a priority to target Envision certification on key design-build projects, such as the I-4 Ultimate public-private partnership highway undertaking in Orlando, Fla. Even more, we have further demonstrated our commitment to Envision by becoming a charter member of the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), the non-profit now managing the system.

I-4 Ultimate

Orlando’s I-4 Ultimate public-private partnership stands to be among the largest and highest-ranked projects certified by the Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system.

Envision’s next phase will extend it beyond its current planning and design focus and into construction. To that end, ISI is drafting a Construction Module that focuses on key issues during the relatively short typical construction duration; such issues include reducing excavated material taken offsite and mitigating temporary noise impacts. This will build upon big-picture topics such as climate adaptability and alternative transportation covered by the current Envision version. ISI has set up technical workgroups in each of the five Envision credit areas to review this module – I am heading up the Resource Allocation workgroup. Additionally, I am leading the Construction Workgroup that is overseeing the entire Construction Module, including the credit reviews done by the five workgroups. It is quite the honor to be involved with redefining the boundaries of design and construction in this way, and in addition my colleague Beth Heider, Skanska USA’s chief sustainability officer, also has a role to play in all this by contributing her expertise to ISI’s Envision Review Board, which provides general oversight for Envision.

Envision’s real power is that by following its guidelines – which are a list of best practices – you help positively shape projects. This leads to environmental benefits, certainly, but it also aids project teams in better mitigating risks, more efficiently managing resources, lowering costs through operational efficiency, and delivering projects that best meet both client and public needs. The actual certification at the end is an ancillary benefit. Even with Envision providing so much value, I spend a great deal of effort dispelling misconceptions, including that Envision is just about the environment, or that it adds costs, or that it’s only a paper exercise or a marketing tool with no value to core design and construction activities. Skanska is committed to Envision, and beyond my ISI responsibilities going forward I will be playing an integral role in leading Skanska’s Envision efforts.

It’s been very gratifying to see the quick pace at which the Envision system has been adopted. What provides me with even more motivation is knowing that the work I and others are doing really is improving how U.S. infrastructure is designed and built, resulting in even more benefits to local communities. Envision is truly a way to Build What Matters.

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Ryan Prime

posted by Ryan Prime

Project engineer

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Tiny timeline, enormous impact: building a home for a family in need

“Home is where the heart is,” or as our California colleagues learned firsthand when they built a home for a Mexican family in need, “El hogar es donde está el corazón.” This #BuildingWhatMatters story illustrates the impact building can have not only on a family, but a community.

Some Skanska projects take years and thousands of people to complete. A recent project in Tijuana, Mexico, took just 40 people and one day.

Don’t let a short timeline fool you, though. This service project, while of a smaller magnitude than a typical Skanska hospital or highway build, will have a lasting impact.

On June 20, about 40 Skanska employees and friends volunteered their time to build a small home in Tijuana for the De Leon Estradas, a local family of six. It was a long day: the team left their southern California homes as early as 4 a.m. to meet the staff with Corazón – the nonprofit organization that coordinated the project– and take a bus across the border. They wouldn’t get home until about 7:30 that night.

When our team arrived at the home site, they were met by a slab foundation and a pile of lumber. But they weren’t totally starting from scratch: they had already planned how to proceed, with help from Corazon and the De Leon Estrada family and friends who participated in the build as well.

As soon as the volunteer team arrived at the site, they quickly began executing the plans to build the complete one-bedroom home that measures 16 feet by 20 feet. As the hot sun started to rise, the group laid pieces out against the dry dirt and fence. Some started painting. Others started to assemble.

“Everything happened fast,” said Mike Cherry, Skanska senior preconstruction director.  “People were building the kitchen counter as the walls were being put up.”

While speed was important to complete the project in time, our colleagues also worked to ensure it was an injury-free day. Besides the pre-planning and morning Stretchand-Flex exercises, they incorporated an innovative scaffolding system that improved the safety of roof access.

The project went quickly and the one-bedroom home was completed by 2:45 p.m. when the keys were presented to the De Leon Estrada family. The build out included everything but electricity and plumbing, which the De Leon Estrada’s will add themselves or with the help of the local Corazon community.

 Skanska Mexico (Civil)

The Skanska team and the De Leon Estrada family  is all smiles after completing the build.

Cherry said this project meant something different from previous charity initiatives.

“If Skanska didn’t show up that morning, the family wouldn’t have a home that fit their needs,” he said. “We built this for the right reason, while working as one Skanska team.”

Jenn Allen, Corazon executive director, explained the impact this new home would have for the De Leon Estradas, who participate in the Corazon Community by helping not only build their home, but homes for others in Tijuana as well.

“We believe that when people are given an opportunity to build something life changing – safe shelter for themselves and their family, education and training to get a job, life skills to improve their personal and family life – amazing things happen,” said Allen. “Those on the receiving end feel empowered and gain strength and courage.  And those giving are deeply moved by the tangible impact they are making on people’s lives.”

The family explained their involvement in Corazon and the importance of this new home to them in this video before the project began:

This was the second consecutive year a Skanska team traveled to Tijuana to help a family in need. On May 14, 2016 we will be back again.

“This day has come to mean so much to us.” Cherry said.

How are you #BuildingWhatMatters? Share your stories with us on Twitter @SkanskaUSA.

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At NYC’s World Trade Center, “no other project will matter more”

Over the upcoming weeks and months we will be sharing stories of how we’re #BuildingWhatMatters. We start with this story of one of Skanska’s most significant projects: our work at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub on the site where New York City’s Twin Towers stood. We are honored to still be contributing to the rebuilding of that hallowed place through projects that exemplify our efforts to Build What Matters. In this blog post, Paul Shapiro, a member of our World Trade Center PATH Hall construction team, explains how our work is resulting in far more than a transportation complex: it’s a symbol of hope, rebirth and New York’s unstoppable spirit.

Commuters passing through the World Trade Center site may never forget the tragedy and loss that occurred there, but they may not be aware of the people who were diligent about keeping the subway and city running in the aftermath of the attacks. They’ll never know the superintendent who gave up a year’s worth of weekends to run an ironworker crew hanging a quarter-mile section of subway 60 feet in mid-air; the dock builder walking upstairs after his shift ends, covered in mud and sweat from drilling piles through bedrock that hasn’t been disturbed for millions of years; or the field engineer pacing back and forth as she ensures the design she’s worked on for months is now being built according to plan. It has been our honor to do the quiet, unseen work that is part of a modern marvel of ingenuity that helps 250,000 people get to where they need to go every day.


Skanska cranes last year working to build the Oculus entrance portal to the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.

Beneath the 9/11 Memorial, Skanska lathers and carpenters once worked nearly around the clock to install hundreds of tons of rebar and acres of formwork in order to open the memorial on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. We were so proud that day. The benches there are anchored into a concrete slab that workers poured from dawn to dusk to meticulous precision.

Today, we are working on the final phase of PATH platforms and tracks. A passerby may see our safety manager discussing proper tie-off procedures with an electrician in an aerial lift.  Or spot a quality control manager writing his daily report as the painter he’s watching packs up for the day. Or see one of our interns gathering that day’s soil manifests to ensure we stay environmentally safe. For school children walking by, we hope to pique their curiosity to follow in similar footsteps, so they can someday build a project that matters like the World Trade Center PATH Hall.


A view inside the WTC transportation center.

Someone walking inside the World Financial Center, across the street from the WTC, will not see a 78-inch-diameter sewer line hidden in the ceiling. This pipe serves all of lower Manhattan, just one of the many utilities that were temporarily – and now permanently – supported by timbermen a few years back while working inches below the West Side Highway. Also inside, you might walk past a tin knocker completing a run of ductwork to provide heat for the final segment of this underground link; our masons grouting the last stone just as carefully as the first because each one matters; or a project manager chatting with the owner about what a successful project it’s been for all involved.

Other construction projects might have also installed more than 10,000 tons of rebar, poured more than 60,000 cubic yards of concrete, erected more than 14,000 tons of steel, ran more than 22 miles of pipe, installed more than 250,000 square feet of marble, and safely returned home more than 2,600 employees each night, all being very significant numbers. But no other project will matter more than what we’ve built at the World Trade Center since 9/11. What it means to the people of New York City and the entire world brings all of us together in the same way it has bonded our team since the job began. It truly transcends time by linking the past with the present and future, similar to how Skanska’s work constructing foundations on the original WTC site connects with our work today. The significance of this project is unparalleled on so many fronts. There is no doubt that we are building what matters.

How are you #BuildingWhatMatters? Share your stories with us on Twitter @SkanskaUSA.

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Paul Shapiro

posted by Paul Shapiro

Assistant project manager

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This is what it means to Build What Matters

Look around you. The physical spaces where we live, work, relax and learn have an integral role in our lives. They leave indelible marks and memories: from the school room where you learned to read, to the bridge you drive over every day with the amazing city views, to the hospital where your first child was born. These are places that matter.

Skanska develops and builds structures and places that enrich lives and shape communities. We believe that by Building What Matters, we can have a positive influence on our communities and world.

All of our team members have stories about why they build and the impact their projects have had on people. Recently, we asked our employees to share their favorite examples of how our teams are making a difference, either through our development and construction projects or community volunteer work. Teams from across the country submitted stories, and we selected the work of four teams to receive donations to the charities of their choice.

These responses were both profound and exciting: from an inside look at what it has meant to rebuild at the World Trade Center, to the story of a Boston team donating their expertise to build the nation’s first youth-run homeless shelter, to constructing an innovative new community in Nashville that will improve care for Alzheimer’s patients. This video provides a look at some of the stories we’ll be highlighting over the next weeks and months. If you have a story to share, join the conversation on social media by tweeting to @SkanskaUSA #BuildingWhatMatters.

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Why inclusion is so important for safety

A diverse and inclusive work environment has been shown to be more innovative and productive. Well-managed diverse teams – epitomizing inclusivity – outperform homogenous and poorly managed teams because they have better synergy, recognize and utilize each other’s unique strengths and points of view and are thus well-suited for tasks that require outside-of-the-box thinking.

When we talk about inclusion, it’s easy to focus on how inclusive leadership can benefit an individual’s career and a company’s bottom line. However, in some industries, including construction and manufacturing, success is directly tied to safety. If the work cannot be done safely, it should not be done. So the question is does inclusion impact safety? And if so, how does fostering an inclusive culture help lead to an Injury-Free Environment®?

Linking safe and inclusive leadership

Diversity alone is not enough to improve performance: inclusive leadership and an inclusive culture are essential to secure a positive impact. We’ve seen that increased diversity in combination with inclusive leadership and an inclusive culture results in an improved safety record. Research also shows that an effective safety culture and a diverse and inclusive culture demand the same kind of leadership. Inclusive and safe leaders constantly strive to develop and support their teams. They empower their employees to voice their concerns and opinions. They are courageous. As our vice president of talent development and diversity, Maja Egnell said, “Inclusive leaders stand up for what they believe is right even when it requires personal risk-taking.”

Diversity and inclusion improves safety by enabling input from different stakeholders. It creates engagement among a larger group of people: men and women, different ethnic groups, crafts people, joint-venture partners, trade workers and more. It allows people to speak up in terms of unsafe behavior. It facilitates a caring culture, and it helps us to challenge traditional or “macho” ways of behavior that can have a negative impact on safety.

Safety & Inclusion

Bringing safety lessons to life

To illustrate and open dialogue on the impact of inclusion on safety, Skanska recently held a workshop in which four senior leaders acted out scenarios in which a lack of inclusive leadership impacts project safety. For example, Vice President of Operations Larry Gillman acted out a situation in which generational differences hurt team performance. Gillman played the part of Hans, a young trainee on the jobsite who is teased by older men at the project because he always wears his protective equipment: they labeled him sensitive, a weakling and a sissy. Hans gets a cut on his finger and, following protocol, asks for a first aid kit. His older colleagues heckle him because, “This is a rough job and we need people who can handle it.” Embarrassed, Hans leaves without treating his cut and wishes he could avoid work entirely.

For Gillman, this scenario offered an important jumping off point for a discussion about jobsite age diversity, as well as the macho culture he encounters often in his work on projects in New York.

“That’s a scenario you can see on the jobsite, and illustrates cultural expectations on men in terms of unsafe macho behavior, as well as generational and age diversity related to that,” said Gillman. “A very good discussion followed about some of those challenges and how to overcome them and shift perspectives. In my personal experience, I see incredible diversity on our jobsites: whether it’s in age, ethnicity or gender. We encounter it every day on our jobs. With good communication and leadership that includes everyone; diversity is a great benefit to our performance.”

Gillman’s scenario demonstrates how, in homogenous groups, there is a tendency for “group think.” This silo thinking decreases our collective ability to assess risks related to safety.

“In male-dominated cultures we might experience a macho jargon/culture that negatively impacts safety,” said Skanska’s global diversity manager, Pia Hook, who organized the workshop. “In diverse and non-inclusive groups we tend to see low levels of trust, care and respect. Instead we tend to see high level of banter, derogatory jargons, discrimination and conflicts. This is in itself unsafe from a psychological and emotional standpoint, and it can have a negative impact on physical safety.”

Building an inclusive and safe jobsite

Additionally, as our jobsites become increasingly diverse, inclusion helps ensure that everyone understands our commitment to safety. For example, on jobsites where there are workers with languages and cultures, it could be easy to say: “We posted warning signs in their language. We’re all set.” But it’s clear that these kinds of non-inclusive efforts do not instill the necessary safety culture needed to prevent incidents.

For example, on our Pegasus Park project in south Florida, we had a team of Chinese craft workers with no English skills. For Analyn Nunez, the Skanska environment, health and safety manager responsible for day-to-day project safety oversight, having translators on site every day helped Chinese-speaking workers feel included and committed to our Injury-Free Environment culture.

“But just having translators isn’t enough,” Nunez said. “Instead, we have worked to build positive relationships with the translators – they’ve become part of my safety team. Numerous times I’ve walked the site with them to train them and show them what I look for on my inspections. By seeing me doing safety walks with the translators, it’s clear to the Chinese workers that safety is Skanska’s top priority.”

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Building a quantitative career: Q&A with Midwest chief financial officer, Josh Fryback

Out of Josh Fryback’s 10 years with Skanska, the last year has been especially busy: he went from being USA Civil’s Midwest controller to be the first chief of staff for Civil CEO Mike Cobelli in New York. Now, he’s back in Evansville as Civil’s Midwest chief financial officer. Here, he shares some of what has shaped him:


When I was 14, I started doing bookkeeping for my grandmother’s convenience store in Indiana. I enjoyed that work, so I knew I was headed for a quantitative career. Even more, that experience taught me my work ethic and business sense. The store is in a small town of about 3,000 people, so it doesn’t have many competitors. But there was and still is enough competition that if you don’t treat a customer right and listen to their needs, you are going to lose them.

I started my career as a financial analyst for Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. Casinos are sophisticated and data intensive, so it presented a lot of opportunities for a quant-head like me to learn data analytics skills. My last project was budgeting for a construction project, so it was a nice segue to joining the construction industry.

Being chief of staff was truly a once-in-a-lifetime development opportunity. Being able to see Civil at a macro level and observe management’s different leadership styles was a humbling experience. It was inspiring to see the strength and resiliency our leaders consistently display in addressing the variety of challenges that come before them from clients, partners, and colleagues.

The chief of staff role is all about project management. The senior leaders would come out of meetings with things they wanted to get accomplished, and my job was to help them get those done. It was all very intriguing, as I was helping take ideas and expand them into processes, policies, or procedural changes.

Mike Cobelli walks the talk when it comes to mentoring. When we would visit projects that were outside of what Skanska does in the Midwest, he would tell me not to take any notes – that I should just listen so I could really understand those projects. He was also very deliberate about walking me through management decisions and reviewing the pros and cons of alternatives being considered.

The best career advice that I have received is to always look to train your way out of a job. The better and faster you are at training others to understand concepts and practices, the quicker you are able to take on newer and more complex responsibilities. Furthermore, this is a great philosophy for developing a more robust team.

In 2014, I became a pilot. It’s certainly one of the most rewarding things I’ve accomplished. I fly a Diamond DA40, a four-seater that I rent. It’s great to see landmarks from a different perspective, such as Notre Dame’s Golden Dome when my wife and I fly there for football games. It is a hobby that requires constant receiving and processing of instructions, being fully attentive at all times, and most importantly, maintaining composure in the face of sudden change.

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We’re freezing the ground in D.C

In Washington, D.C., the neighborhoods of Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park feature beautiful Victorian-era row homes along narrow, tree-lined streets. A less desirable characteristic is the regular flooding due to the low-lying geography. DC Water’s First Street Tunnel Project will alleviate that flooding by constructing a 20-foot diameter, 2,700-foot tunnel. When this tunnel enters service — scheduled for April 2016 — it will store up to nine million gallons of rainwater that would otherwise fill streets and soak basements. The water will be pumped into D.C’s sewer system.

But how are we constructing this tunnel system beneath dense city streets while striving for minimal disturbance to residents? Key to our solution is ground freezing, which converts water within soil pores to ice. With this, we create ice walls up to nearly 10 feet thick that enable us to safely excavate while keeping groundwater out. But more important to nearby residents is that ground freezing involves far less noise and vibration and requires a smaller work area than conventional methods. Our latest infographic describes the process:


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Why it’s time to have a conversation about workplace inclusion

The high level of diversity that an increasing number of organizations are seeking equates to a lot of differences, including with gender, ethnicity, age, experience, educational background and more. Without finding a way for those differences to meaningfully co-exist, the result can be discontent, including low work satisfaction, high turnover and an increased risk for bullying and harassment.

But consider the enticing result of proactively combining a high-level of diversity with a high-level of inclusion: a creative and innovative work culture and environment with increased work satisfaction, “healthy” employee turnover, and greater adaptability and agility.


At an Inclusive Leadership Workshop,  the team discussed techniques for fostering constructive dialogue.

Such an inclusive culture needs to be fostered, and that’s why Skanska USA has launched a series of Inclusive Leadership Workshops aimed at starting a discussion for everyone. These workshops, created to break down what inclusive leadership really means and provide concrete tools for teams to adopt in their everyday interactions, have been going on throughout Skanska’s Diversity & Inclusion Week (October 19-23) and will continue over the next year.

These workshops are designed to be exploratory, bringing together broad groups of employees to have frank and confidential conversations about the challenges and opportunities of inclusion. For example, one session at a Skanska New York City office included male and female participants from the U.S., Sweden, Syria and Lebanon. In their conversation, the team dove in to how to facilitate openness. “We need to learn what makes people click versus shut down,” said one participant. “How can we approach people and connect to people different from ourselves? We need to recognize that we all have implicit biases and they shape how we approach people.”

D&I Week 2015-3

Inclusive Leadership Workshops are designed to bring together broad groups of employees to have frank and confidential conversations about the challenges and opportunities of inclusion.

An important part of these conversations is the recognition that some biases are completely normal! Implicit biases start developing at an early age, through life experiences and through exposure to direct and indirect social messages. They are based on the basic human need to create categories – of people, places and things – to make sense of the world around us. While it is impossible to completely avoid implicit bias, it is important to know that they have a significant influence on our attitudes, actions and decisions, and that bringing them to the surface will enable us to make more conscious choices. As one Inclusive Leadership Workshop participant said, “It is a constant issue because we need to combat our own internal biases. The workshop explored these natural biases and how we have to be cognizant of that. We need to realize we categorize certain people and we need to know when it’s right and when it’s wrong.”

One way of assessing implicit bias is to take the Implicit Association Test. The IAT is an online assessment for measuring the strength of the associations we make between different concepts – such as sexual orientation or race – and positive or negative evaluations or stereotypes. Using the IAT website, you can measure your implicit associations in such categories as weight, disability, race, and gender-career. After having taken the test, it’s worth reflecting on how your life experiences might have impacted the results, and how these associations might affect your interactions with others. Inclusion comes from being aware of your own unique frame of reference and knowing how it influences you. In addition to understanding yourself, this is also about adopting a curious and open-minded stance toward the other person’s frame of reference. Think about ways that you can approach situations differently, armed with the knowledge of where you might be tempted to make assumptions.

Another important area for discussion is the impact of insider/outsider dynamics. The insider/outsider experience is very situation and context dependent. You can be an insider as a member of your local soccer team, for example, but feel like an outsider at work. People often have vivid memories of being an outsider due to the strong negative feelings that are associated with the experience. An outsider will often experience a lack of control, and feel weak, confused, vulnerable and frustrated. Outsiders are expected to adhere to the rules set by the insiders, and have to work harder than insiders for the same opportunities. They will spend a lot of energy trying to be accepted by the insider group, and they are often less engaged, motivated and satisfied.

The insider experience, on the other hand, is very different, since most insiders might not even realize their insider status. The insider group has the formal or informal power to create the rules, and will be the ones reinforcing compliant behavior. They are often unaware of outsiders and their perspectives and don’t prioritize understanding the impact that this dynamic brings. In fact, not feeling valued and included has a deteriorating effect on performance as well as commitment and company loyalty. Research has shown that when  less favored employees are treated with the same level of attention and interest typically invested in favorite employees, the former’s performance can substantially increase – even up to 30 percent!

Conversations about inclusion require an open mind and the willingness to take a critical look at your own beliefs, assumptions and behaviors. It’s not always easy. But without these kinds of tough conversations, there can be no progress and no true inclusive leadership. How can you foster this kind of dialogue on your team?

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Maja Egnell

posted by Maja Egnell

vice president of talent development and diversity

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How we’re developing female leaders through learning from peer organizations

Only 14.2 percent of the top five leadership positions at companies in the S&P 500 are held by women, according to a report from CNNMoney. This low number is an issue that spans industries, from construction to technology to retail, and one that the Skanska Women’s Network is seeking to address.

Our Women’s Network is an employee resource group open to both men and women that focuses on retaining and developing women throughout our organization, especially for leadership roles. It provides a platform for professional development and a forum in which women can share experiences and influence the company. Unlocking these resources and connections creates new possibilities not only for women’s careers, but for Skanska as well. The Women’s Network has chapters throughout the U.S. and is launching its fifth chapter in Florida this week.

DSC_0089 (1)

Members of our San Francisco chapter attended a recent panel on leadership.

Our Women’s Network is working to make connections with leaders outside the construction and development industries. These connections are helping our Women’s Network broaden its reach and influence, while providing valuable lessons for our teams. For example, in Seattle, Skanska Women’s Network Northwest, led by Co-Chair and Senior Project Manager Lacey Ahlf, tapped into two of the biggest companies in their market sectors: Starbucks and Tableau Software. Earlier this year, local Women’s Network leaders asked its members what they most wanted to gain from the network, and mentorship topped the list. Ahlf noticed Starbucks’ Women’s Development Network discussing mentorship on their Facebook page, and a member of the Northwest Chapter reached out to them to see if they’d join Skanska’s discussion. Similarly, the Women’s Network connected with the women’s group at Tableau and invited them to join the mentoring discussion, which was open to women and men from Skanska as well as others in the industry, including competitors.

“Our goal is to help women in the industry,” Ahlf said. That means supporting all women, regardless of company.

The mentoring conversation focused on the differences between formal and informal mentorship and the role and importance of cultivating both. One interesting discussion point came from the Tableau team, which has developed a robust mentorship program, in part to stay competitive in the highly transitory tech hiring economy. They’ve found that mentorship is most effective when it’s implemented from the on-boarding phase. Routine mentorship check-ins are vital, especially in the employee’s first 1.5 years in order to develop and retain talent. These kinds of cross-industry insights are helping our Women’s Network refine and grow its programs.

Learning from Nike

In Portland, Ore., Skanska Women’s Network Co-Chair and Director of Project Controls Katie Coulson has also approached companies outside of construction, including Nike. Women at Nike make up 50 percent of the general workforce, but that parity is not yet reflected at the top of the company – a situation typical of many companies. Thus, Nike’s Global Women’s Leadership Council is working hard to change this dynamic and is serving as a mentor to Skanska’s program in the Northwest. Notably, the council has demonstrated the impact that these kinds of programs can have on women’s careers: a higher percentage of women who are members of the council have achieved promotions in the last 5 years versus women who do not participate.

Bringing 70 people together from across industries to discuss female leadership

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The panel at “Breaking the Mold: Women in Leadership” addresses the Women’s Network in San Francisco.

In San Francisco, Julie Hyson, Skanska director of business development, was inspired by her interactions with clients, partners and community members to develop a similar cross-industry event for the Women’s Network, entitled “Breaking the Mold: Women in Leadership.”

“I’ve met many inspiring women in leadership positions,” said Hyson. “And I felt like there should be a forum for us to share real experiences and learn from one another.”

Hyson connected with the team at Autodesk, who shared Hyson’s vision for an event that would cover taboo topics about women in leadership and allow women to speak boldly about their experiences.

“We wanted women to leave with a sense of courage,” said Hyson. “And with the confidence to be brazen leaders regardless of their title.”

Hyson assembled a panel of inspiring women who represented diverse market sectors and a range of experience, from companies like Autodesk and Northland Control Systems, to the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco International Airport. More than 70 women and men from industries including architecture, engineering, technology and sports joined the conversation, which touched on topics such as self-advocacy and balance. One interesting moment came at the beginning of the session, when the audience was asked to raise their hands for these questions:

1. Are you a woman? 95 percent of the audience said yes.

2. Are you a manager? 75 percent of the audience said yes.

3. Do you have concerns about work/life balance? 100 percent of the audience said yes

4. Are you a mother with young children? 50 percent of the audience said yes.

5. Are you in a male dominated field? 100 percent of the audience said yes.

“The idea was to show everyone that we’re speaking the same language, said Hyson. “We have commonalities in an effort to break the ice and feel comfortable connecting on a genuine level.”  The panel was so successful that there are plans for similar events with teams at SFO and elsewhere.

For Ahlf, Hyson and Coulson, the goal of these events is to help women across industries advance their careers and become leaders in their own right.

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