Effecting change

Nov 06, 2022

ElevateHER provides a platform for AEC professionals to effect the change they want to see in our industry.

Just a few weeks ago, Zweig Group’s held its third annual ElevateHER Symposium where professionals from around the AEC industry gathered to challenge themselves by thinking about what role they and their firms can play in making the future a better and more equitable place. 2022 was the first year our ElevateHER Cohort was able to meet in person, and the venue was imbued with levity and joy. While these are not typically descriptions you hear when discussing the future – particularly nowadays – the ability for our 2022 cohort to step out of the day-to-day and focus on a shared vision of the future in a communal space breathed a spirit of hope and camaraderie into the event.

This is the vision with which Zweig Group founded ElevateHER in 2018. At the heart of ElevateHER is the desire to not only look past the troubled waters of the current moment, but to visualize the bridge to a better future and begin to lay the foundations to get there. In this pursuit, we can find strength in historical context through Abigail Adams.

Shortly after the onset of the American Revolution in March of 1776, Abigail was living separately from her revolutionary husband John, raising four children in war-torn Massachusetts while her husband lived and worked in Pennsylvania. While John Adams politicked in Philadelphia – espousing ideals on patriotism and public policy – Abigail lived the life of a single parent.

During the Spring of 1776, the waters in which Abigail found herself were indeed troubled. The difficulties of performing her duties as a parent were only exacerbated by the fact that the Revolutionary War had broken out all around her. While the couple was physically separated, they still shared an emotional bond. At this historical juncture, Abigail Adams pursued her unique vision of the future. With war breaking out around her, Abigail wrote letters to her husband, imploring him to use his position of power to set in law a better future for women in the country he sought to establish. In these letters, Abigail wrote about the “new code of laws which … [would] be necessary for [him] to make.” Abigail asked that in the making of the new nation, John and his fellow revolutionaries “remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.”

Looking past the present moment, Abigail was not advocating for herself, but rather for a larger swath of women. She wanted her husband to take into account women whose husbands did not share the same respect he did, writing to John: “Why then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use [women] with cruelty and indignity with impunity. Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex.” It has to be stated that Abigail is not referring to “all women”, but rather “all white women whose husbands own land.” However, using the means at her disposal, Abigail challenged her husband to speak on behalf of the 84 percent of Americans who couldn’t vote at the time. The decision to do this took a tremendous amount of courage – courage that ultimately moved her husband to act. Her words gave him the strength to enter the rooms where the new nation was being built with that perspective. Her advocacy was successful, and the needle moved toward progress when women landowners were granted the right to vote in New Jersey in 1776. While this right only lasted 30 years, Abigail’s strength and courage elevated her concerns to an arena that could effect change.

In this anecdote we can find strength despite the troubled waters we currently find ourselves in. Despite many moments of courage like Abigail’s throughout American history, women are still fighting to keep pushing the needle of progress forward. The last two years in particular have been especially challenging for women in the workforce. As of 2020, the average white woman in America still made 73 cents on the dollar compared to her male counterparts. Black and Hispanic women made 58 cents and 49 cents, respectively. That was before women left the workforce in droves due to remote schooling, daycare closures, and a variety of caregiving challenges wrought by the pandemic that primarily fell on women’s shoulders. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, there are still 2 million fewer women in the workforce than there were two years ago.

Abigail Adams was able to use the means at her disposal to effect change. However, a large percentage of women are not afforded the same means, and don’t often have access to spaces where they can be an advocate for change. ElevateHER seeks to give women in the AEC industry access to the means of change, allowing them to connect with others both professionally and personally. You can be a part of this too, as applications are open now to join Zweig Group’s 2023 ElevateHER Cohort. You can also participate at the 2023 ElevateHER Symposium, where leaders from across the AEC industry will have genuine discussions about the topics affecting them, and extend those discussions into actionable plans. As the designers of the built environment, the AEC industry has a unique impact in that what happens within our industry affects people in every corner of the globe. As such, the ability to effect change within our industry has reverberating effects for many people.

In this spirit, the 2023 ElevateHER Cohort will embody the example of Abigail Adams, who – through a thinly veiled threat toward her powerful husband – brought about change for a larger swath of the population. The ability the 2023 cohort will have to courageously and fearlessly challenge the current paradigm is again echoed by Abigail Adams’ letters to her husband: “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound to any laws by which we have no representation or voice.”

Applications to join the 2023 ElevateHER Cohort are open until December 1. Click here to apply or learn more. You can also see the 2023 ElevateHER Cohort at the ElevateHER Symposium in Dallas on February 15, 2023. We hope to see you there!  

Jamie Claire Kiser is managing principal and director of advisory services at Zweig Group. Contact her at jkiser@zweiggroup.com.

ElevateHER Symposium Join Zweig Group and the newly inducted 2023 ElevateHER Cohort at the ElevateHER Symposium in Dallas on February 15, 2023. The symposium will include presentation overviews of the 2020, 2021, and 2022 ElevateHER cohort’s research findings, team projects, powerful panel discussions, and DEI focused keynote presentations from industry change agents. Click here to learn more!

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.