Advancing women in the AEC workplace

Feb 07, 2021

A conversation about how improving gender representation in the workplace benefits everyone and how the AEC industry has evolved regarding women professionals.

Until recently, the concept of diversity initiatives has not been a focal point in our industry. This conversation has been steadily gaining ground in our corporate environment. It is clear: improving gender representation in the workplace benefits everyone – it is good for workplace culture, professional development, society, our personal lives, and the financial bottom line. But these gains are only attainable with the cooperation and support of our male colleagues, mentors, and sponsors.

I recently spoke with Reuben Tolentino, CCM of PSOMAS, about this important subject and how our industry has evolved regarding women professionals in our workforce.

Talin Espinoza: Looking toward the future, what are the threats to your business, your success, and how are you handling them?

Reuben Tolentino: Talent shortage. Specifically, here in California, we are doing ourselves a disservice by not looking outside the usual places. We need to work to become more open-minded about attracting and welcoming professionals from every walk of life. That includes gender, international professionals, and people from different industries – for example, people from industries like oil and gas that we don’t typically consider in our talent pool. If we are not open-minded and expect everyone to fit a specific mold, it can become an issue.

Our industry must embrace change and evolve to reap the benefits that come with change.

TE: Some could argue our industry has failed to think strategically about women as a business opportunity, and how that strategy could possibly be a solution to our talent problems as well as missing out on the diversity of ideas brought to the table. Do you feel that talented women leaders change the work environment? How so?

RT: I am seeing a lot more women taking on leadership roles in the construction industry and being recognized for their accomplishments. And it’s about time! Women professionals are delivering high profile and successful projects and programs.

Three years ago the only female on my team was my assistant. Now, 30 percent of my professional workforce is women. It’s encouraging to see that a lot of the up-and-comers are strong, educated, smart women who look forward to being on construction jobs. That has helped them become successful.

Having more women involved in the industry – public figures, those who are in positions of leadership, like yourself – is an asset. It’s a testament to how their contributions have improved many industries and will continue in that direction as we welcome more diversity.

TE: If you could give advice to a young, male professional starting out in our business, what advice would you give him about working with women professionals?

RT: I would say don’t treat them as women per se, treat them as people. Whether it’s a man or a woman, they can have a positive effect on your career path and you need to gravitate toward that. The fact that we have more up and coming women in our industry means you will have the opportunity to diversify your choices on who you’re seeking as mentors. More choices, more points of view, is always a good thing!

Talin Espinoza is chief strategy officer for Twining, Inc. In her role she leads the company’s business development and marketing efforts at a programmatic level. Espinoza recently concluded her term as president of the CMAA Southern California Chapter. She also serves on the board of directors for the Association of General Contractors Los Angeles District and the AGC of California Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Reuben Tolentino, CCM, DBIA, ENV SP, serves as principal and vice president at Psomas overseeing their Southern California public works construction management team. He has successfully 20 years of professional experience in construction project management.

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