Stories

Events and Conversation Mark Construction Inclusion Week at DPR

From job sites to offices to virtual meeting rooms, DPR Construction employees participated in a wide array of activities as part of the second annual Construction Inclusion Week. Launched in 2021 by a consortium of construction firms including DPR as well as Mortenson, Turner Construction Company, McCarthy Building Companies, Clark Construction Group, and Gilbane Building Company, the 2022 event boasted nearly double the participation industry-wide.

“Together, we are showing that when the construction industry bands together, we can do amazing things,” said George Pfeffer, a DPR management committee member who helped chair this year’s event. “There is so much work to be done and it cannot be handled by firms individually. If we’re going to have a truly inclusive industry that can attract and retain the best talent, we have to work together to change the culture of construction so that everyone feels they have a home here.”

Hundreds of DPR job sites planned toolbox talks and other events designed to get workers talking about where there are still gaps to fill when it comes to inclusion.

“It’s encouraging that high-profile bias incidents are still the exception and that the majority of workers want to foster inclusive job sites,” said Angie Weyant, DPR’s craft people practices leader. “What we’re focusing on is how we can increase individual engagement and show people how they can take action in a variety of ways to foster psychological safety as much as physical safety.”

Individual engagement was the hallmark of DPR activities no matter where they were held.

“Inclusion isn’t something that happens at a corporate level. It’s the combination of the thousands of individual actions taken by employees every day to make it part of the culture,” said Stacee Barkley, DPR’s global lead for diversity, equity and inclusion. “For too long, the construction industry has taken a reactive approach and responding when there’s some sort of incident. Inclusion Week aims to be proactive and put people into discussions they might run from when emotions are high. We can help people be comfortable with traditionally uncomfortable topics and that will move the needle.”

DPR offices and job sites hosted hundreds of activities throughout the week. Several represent the types of outreach happening across the company.


Connecting diverse populations to careers

In Boston, two DPR team members joined a class session at Wentworth Institute of Technology’s Industry Corps. Chuck Rosenthal discussed the Importance of Safety in the construction industry, while James Pinet shared his career journey from an electrician to a carpenter foreman.

Industry Corps, part of Wentworth’s Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, aims to deliver education-to-career pathways driven by the needs of the local economy. Participants have the opportunity to earn stacked credentials that will build their portfolio of skills. Its inaugural pathway leads to opportunities in the construction fields. Upon completion of this 20-month program, participants can join the workforce in a full-time position or have the opportunity to pursue additional education at Wentworth through one of our undergraduate degree programs. This program has 20 students from around Massachusetts who will receive entry-level certifications and training in the trades while having the opportunity to take classes with Wentworth students at no cost.

"We cannot diversify the workforce through traditional types of outreach and recruitment,” Rosenthall said. “Opportunities like this are game changers for segments of the population that don’t have the same access to career tracks. The more we lean into these programs, the more people we can bring in.”

DPR’s Chuck Rosenthall leads a session with students at Wentworth Institute of Technology’s Industry Corps. Photo: Margarita Polanco
Brainstorming the ways to better gender diversity on job sites

DPR’s SoCal Women’s Employee Resource Group team kicked off the week with a continuation of a Gender Diversity on Jobsites series it started earlier this year.

Employees discussed tangible ways to move the needle when it comes to gender diversity on job sites, focusing on women in underrepresented roles, job site conditions and logistics, psychological safety & inclusion, and leadership opportunities. From there, the group developed a series of goals for its local SoCal Women's Employee Resource Group, local business leadership and, potentially, to be scaled across the company.

"We cannot assume that change is just going to happen,” said Alicia Ortiz, one of DPR’s SoCal business leaders. “We are creating a culture where it is safe to get into tough topics and share where the tension points really are. Once those are out in the open, we can develop real ways to address them.”

DPR SoCal employees in a session discussing gender diversity on job sites.
Creating more inclusive job site culture

Meanwhile, DPR’s Raleigh-Durham team hosted Cristina Espana, Deputy Director for DEI from the office of NC Governor Roy Cooper, on a local project site. Appearing with DPR’s Cassandra Perrymon Dennis, craft workers and project management staff got to hear about the state government’s commitment to diversity and how individual actions on the job site can create a more inclusive industry.

“Job sites are where the rubber hits the road for our industry,” Dennis said. “When we set the tone for inclusion here, it spreads throughout the entire organization. And hearing about it from outside the company, knowing that it’s not just a corporate effort but a larger effort helps everyone feel like they have a role to play."

Cristina Espana, Deputy Director for DEI from the office of NC Governor Roy Cooper, addresses DPR job site workers on a Raleigh-Durham area project. Photo: Jessica Foster
Leaning in across roles

Crews and project leaders at the Domain 9 project in Austin, TX hosted several events throughout the week designed to get people on-site talking about inclusion and breaking barriers to it.

“We integrated Inclusion Week toolbox talks into the normal rhythm of job site meetings,” said DPR’s Scott Hanyzewski. “One highlight was, after going through a toolbox talk, we broke the job site team out into small groups to discuss examples of inclusion and exclusion and the effects each one of them had on work performance.”

Participation was strong all week.

“This affects everyone in some way,” Hanyzewski said. “I think members of the team all felt like it was good to have a way to talk about these topics and how it impacts our lives, jobs and the people around us."

Crews at the Domain 9 project gather for a site-wide toolbox talk. Photo: Matt Miller
Zeroing in on a Positive Office Culture

Employees from across teams gathered in DPR’s flagship Redwood City, CA office for a focused discussion of DPR’s workplace culture and how it relates to inclusion.

“When there are bias incidents in our construction industry on job sites, it makes the news,” said Renée Powers, a people practices leader at DPR. “Across this industry in America, though, we know that many microaggressions – even unintentional – and other established dynamics can exclude a segment of workers. It’s vital we talk about this so we can avoid it.”

The group discussed where they felt DPR’s culture was already strong and where they saw opportunities for improvement, either through company action or in terms of how to better prepare individuals to recognize and prevent bias.

“Candid discussions not only help surface & validate individuals’ feelings & experiences, they help build trust and rapport,” Powers said. “When we see each other and celebrate our differences, and do so in a manner that aims to include everyone, we change the way we work, create psychological safety, and create opportunities for everyone moving forward."

Redwood City employees attend a session hosted by DPR’s Renée Powers to discuss workplace culture. Photo: Marlene Gartner