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Oles Morrison

Oles Morrison Celebrates Women in Construction Week

Wed Mar 10, 2021

We are at the half-way point of Women in Construction Week – a week to celebrate and recognize the women in the industry.  But I think it is also an opportunity to call out the fact that we (and most other industries) can do better.  Right here at Oles Morrison – we are celebrating the entrance of three (!!!) new women partners at the firm, making a total of six women at the partnership level.  By far the highest number in the firm’s 128-year history.  And while that is certainly something to celebrate – when you consider the fact that women make up a higher percentage of law school graduates than men (51 percent to 48 percent), women make up less than twenty percent of partners.    The construction industry is no different.   Here in Seattle, we have the second largest female employment share in the industry at 17.6 percent, compared to the nationwide average of 13 percent.  Yet, on average only 3 percent of Fortune 500 construction companies have a female construction manager and only 16 percent have women in the C-Suite (only 3 of ENR’s top 100 contractors are led by a woman.)

What can we be doing to help swing the balance?

  • Be a mentor. If you are a woman in the industry, look around, get involved and take someone under your wing.   Look even younger than the women who just entered the work force –  can you volunteer with kids still in school to help guide them toward the industry? Studies have shown that speaking with kids about careers (ideally at a young age – and no later than 14-15) is associated with significantly better earnings for those kids by the time they are 26.
  • Get involved in your company. Can you participate in recruitment at your firm? Can you create or get involved in a group at your company to create comradery to encourage one another and promote retainment. (Women leaving the workforce is another topic, for another day!) Happy employees that feel included and invested are more productive.
  • Be positive. We have likely all encountered the woman in our career that has “walked up hill both ways in the snow” and is often an adversary, rather than an adviser or friendly face. I believe it often comes from a good place of wanting to “toughen” someone up – to face what they faced.  But let’s not.  Let’s stop that mentality and realize that there’s enough room for all of us to succeed and grow and “climb the ladder.”  The stronger the team, the better.

In a year where we are asking so much of women in the workforce who may be balancing work and home-schooling and caring for elderly parents etc., it is a lot to ask anyone to take on anything else.  But keep these in mind as we pull through the pandemic and even if all you have space for now is an encouraging word to a co-worker or a congratulatory email to someone who was recently promoted – then let’s all do that.  Each positive step we can take can trend those statistics in the right direction.  Here’s to Women in Construction Week – may we celebrate all year long. 

Meghan A. Douris, Partner,