Women in construction: how to recognize the strength of diversity in the workplace: risks and insurance

Women are a vital part of the world of work. For male-dominated industries like construction, now is the time to ask what true diversity and inclusion looks like.

Risk management requires that healthy buildings be designed to withstand multiple and variable loads and stresses. The same goes for businesses, from engineering and construction firms to law firms.

The main roundtable at the CLM Construction conference, September 21-23 in San Diego, will discuss the importance of diversity in the construction industry.

Anoush C. Holaday will moderate the panel. She is a partner at the national law firm Wood Smith Henning & Berman (WSHB).

“The panel is well organized,” Holaday said. “It’s a cross section of risk managers and lawyers who represent what it means to be in construction, which remains a male-dominated industry. It just means female lawyers and their allies need to work harder and better. Strong women do not consider themselves at a disadvantage; quite the contrary.”

Noting the personalities on the panel, Holaday added, “A key topic will be how we all approached construction through separate avenues, but still have commonalities. We will discuss where it was 10 and 20 years ago, where it is now, and where we are going for the industry in the future.

The obstacles of the working woman

Holaday doesn’t plan to dwell on rites of passage but acknowledges that most professional women have them.

“My very first mission was an expert deposition, which is more difficult than ordinary depositions because you have to know your case. I had pages of typed notes and questions, but I was still, frankly, a little intimidated by the situation. Plaintiff’s attorney came in and said, “Honey, I see you’re nervous. Do you want me to take care of this? Beneath a veneer of civility, he was humiliating. I declined his offer and did very well with the deposition. In retrospect, I think he unwittingly did me a favor,” she recalls.

Holaday explained that women in law and women in construction certainly don’t have to imitate men to be effective, but they have to be tough, if only because these businesses are tough.

“Many of us are familiar with the acronym FOD: first, only, different,” Holaday said. “But we don’t come from a place of weakness, we come from strong places. Diversity is strength. The success of companies that promote diversity is proof of this. My company has a great record of Trials wins,” she added with a confident tone in her voice.

Holaday describes himself as “homegrown”, having spent 10 years with the company, beginning with construction defect cases and extending to general liability, wrongful death and personal injury, as well as certain intellectual properties. “I always plead,” she says eagerly, “almost entirely in defense. The constructors are the targets. We do a lot of insurance defense.

In July the The National Law Review Women in Law’s annual scorecard ranked WSHB in the top 10 nationally. The Women in Law Scorecard ranks the nation’s largest law firms based on female lawyer representation. Rankings are calculated by adding the total percentage of female lawyers in each firm with the percentage of partners who are women. As if to underscore the point, Holaday teamed up while she was on maternity leave.

In addition to her usual workload, Holaday is Director of Partner Success at WSHB, through which she has been the global mentor to new partners in the firm’s 31 offices, since the start of their careers.

Continuing many of the same themes, panel member Courtney A. Winzeler emphasized that diversity brings strength to any organization.

“Diversity does not exclude anyone. Inclusiveness is just that: inclusive. Construction is still very male-dominated, maybe because that generational shift hasn’t happened yet, but it’s starting. Greater representation will change the mindset of the industry. Slowly, but it’s changing. I don’t think this panel will change the construct overnight, but I hope the public really hears us.

Flexibility and establishment of a work/life balance for the working woman

Winzeler is a partner at the law firm Lorber, Greenfield & Polito, based in Poway, Calif., north of San Diego. She is originally from small town Arizona, moved to California to study law, and recently returned to Arizona to be closer to her family. This flexibility is not available to everyone and will be a point she raises in the discussion.

“Work/life balance is very important to many professional women, men too, but especially women,” Winzeler said. “We’re starting to see less flexibility lately in a lot of companies. As pandemic restrictions are lifted, many companies are forcing their employees back to the office. »

While there are situations where working in the office is necessary, Winzeler noted that many people can be just as productive, if not more so, working remotely.

“We’ll discuss work/life balance and other important topics while drawing on our personal experiences,” Winzeler said. “As different as these experiences may be, I think we’re all going to agree on the importance of education, representation and inclusion.”

Where mentoring matters most

Mentoring supports all of these goals, Winzeler added. “I grew up in construction and I didn’t have a female mentor. I didn’t know what I was missing until I came to this company, where I found two. One is Joyia Greenfield, founder of the company; and also Wakako Uritani, another partner, who was a great mentor. It is important for every company to invest in new employees, men and women, but especially women.

This extends to recruitment. Winzeler has little patience for operations — law firms or construction companies — that claim to want diversity but say they don’t see diverse candidates.

“Recruitment needs to be active,” Winzeler said. “You have to look for diversity. In male-dominated industries like construction, you need to make an effort to be inclusive and find diverse candidates. Everyone can be a mentor, sponsor or ally.

Winzeler has practiced for 15 years, in several different firms, but mainly in construction defects, general liability and product liability; largely defense work. A recent trend she has noticed is an increase in litigation stemming from high-end single-family construction and renovation. &

The event is one of several annual conferences sponsored by the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance, which is affiliated with the institutes Risk & Insurance Knowledge Group. The Institutes also have Risk & Insurance® magazine.

Gregory DL Morris is a freelance business journalist currently based in New York with 25 years of experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. He can be reached at [email protected]
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