Magazine Article | September 7, 2020
SMACNA President’s Column: Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem
Angie Simon writes about the need for equal opportunity in the construction industry, "no matter their gender, race, sexual orientation, or other distinguishing characteristic..."
The current social unrest in the United States is impossible to ignore. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I would hope that you can agree that everyone — no matter their gender, race, sexual orientation, or other distinguishing characteristic — deserves equal opportunity.
As anyone who has heard me talk knows, equal opportunity for women has been something I’ve been working on and promoting throughout my entire career, whether just by showing up and quietly getting work done or through direct action and conversation. Not only is it a matter of equity, but it has proven to be good business strategy for Western Allied. It strengthened the quality of our workforce by attracting a broader pool of exceptional candidates and it built loyalty to the organization. It really has been a business advantage for our company.
At SMACNA, our membership and our union partners have committed to doing all that we can to provide a welcoming environment for all. And I have seen some progress on that commitment. But the construction industry still has so much farther to go to be a truly inclusive workplace. Recent incidents involving nooses, hateful graffiti and sexual assault on high-profile union construction projects highlight how much work still needs to be done before our performance matches our promises.
It’s not a shock to anyone in construction that many highly qualified job
candidates don’t end up working in our field because of incidents like these. And we’re now seeing that they aren’t just embarrassing for our industry, they’re also bad for our bottom lines. Our customers realize that their beliefs and values influence consumer loyalty and impact revenues, which is leading them to have less and less tolerance for these incidents. To put it simply, if this is not addressed, it will hurt our businesses.
We in organized construction should view this an as opportunity — and perhaps even an obligation — to be a part of the solution rather than perceived as part of the problem, and addressing incidents directly is the first step. We should mandate that our workplaces be free of harassment and hate crimes, and we should continue efforts to make our workforce reflective of our communities.
It will not be easy , but I know we can do this because I have personally seen and felt the positive change in my 35 years in the construction industry. We will need to work diligently, meticulously, and compassionately to keep moving forward.
I’m willing to work for this change. Who’s with me?