Equality Means Business: Empowering women in STEM Careers
Walt Vernon, PE, LEED AP, EDAC, FASHE
Principal, Chief Executive Officer
About 18 years ago (nothing like having children to make you realize how fast time goes by!) I had two children, a boy and a girl. I was always a kind of fuzzy believer in the idea of equal rights, but now, I suddenly became ferociously focused on ensuring that my daughter would have all of the opportunities available to anyone else.
And, I watched as their mom tried to balance the needs of being a mom with trying to maintain her professional participation. It was hard for her. I tried to help. And I try to help Mazzetti embrace similar practices to better help other mothers of Mazzetti. At one point, seeing how my wife and others needed part time work to better balance the needs of parenthood and work, I tried to create a program to employ moms on a part-time basis to do useful things for Mazzetti (still a dream I would like to realize!).
About five years ago, I started talking about making Mazzetti the most woman-friendly engineering company in the world. I saw that this would be a strategic advantage for us, for many reasons, and I started kind of ad hoc, opportunistic things to try to realize this. (It will surprise few that I kind of made it up as I went along.)
But now, we have a full-time, energetic, and systematic HR professional, and we’re taking things to the next level. We are going to make Mazzetti the most woman-friendly engineering company in the world.
Specifically, I have just signed something called the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles (UNWEP). This is a statement of intent that a very few CEOs (so far) from companies around the world have signed declaring their intent to work towards equal opportunity for all. You can learn more about this program here: http://www.weprinciples.org/
Second, we have long participated in, and supported the local activities of the Society for Women Engineers. This summer we are becoming corporate partners with them. This will create lots of opportunities–for us, for the people who work with us, as well as all the qualified young people in our country. Too many children are turned off from pursuing careers in STEM fields (including my daughter, a smart science student who now wants to go into the Humanities). With SWE, we will encourage young people to enter these fields and to enter Mazzetti. This will help them. It will help Mazzetti. It will help the US. It will help the world.
The UNWEP provides several specific ideas that a company can implement to drive progress. I have worked with HR Manager & COO to agree that we will pursue the following:
Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
Affirm high-level support and direct top-level policies for gender equality and human rights
Establish company-wide goals and targets for gender equality and include progress as a factor in managers’ performance reviews
Engage internal and external stakeholders in the development of company policies, programs, and implementation plans that advance quality
Ensure that all policies are gender sensitive – identifying factors that impact women and men differently – and that corporate culture advances quality and inclusion.
Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination
Pay equal remuneration, including benefits, for work of equal value and strive to pay a living wage to all women and men
Ensure that workplace policies and practices are free from gender-based discrimination.
Implement gender-sensitive recruitment and retention practices and proactively recruit and appoint women to managerial and executive positions and to the corporate board of directors
Assure sufficient participation of women – 30% or greater (this is a UN number; we will try to do better) – in decision-making and governance at all levels and across all business areas.
Offer flexible work options, leave and re-entry opportunities to positions of equal pay and status.
Respect women and men worker right to time off for medical care and counseling for themselves and their dependents
Health, Safety, and Freedom from Violence
Taking into account differential impacts on women and men, provide safe working conditions and protection from exposure to hazardous materials and disclose potential risks, including those to reproductive health
Establish a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of violence at work, including verbal and/or physical abuse and prevent sexual harassment
Offer health insurance or other needed services – including for survivors of domestic violence – and ensure equal access for all employees
Respect women and men workers rights to time off for medical care and counseling for themselves and their dependents
In consultation with employees, identify and address security issues, including the safety of women traveling to and from work on company-related business
Train managers to recognize signs of violence against women and understand laws and company policies on labor and sexual exploitation
Promote education, training, and professional development for women
Invest in workplace policies and programs that open avenues for advancement of women at all levels and across all business areas, and encourage women to enter nontraditional job fields
Ensure equal access to all company-supported education and training programs, including literacy classes, vocational and information technology training
Provide equal opportunities for formal and informal networking and mentoring
Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
Expand business relationships with women-owned enterprises, including small businesses, and women entrepreneurs
Respect the dignity of women in all marketing and other company materials
Ensure that company products, services, and facilities are not used for human trafficking and/or labor or sexual exploitation
Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
Lead by example – showcase company commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment
Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality
Make public the company policies and implementation plan for promoting gender equality
Establish benchmarks that quantify inclusion of women at all levels
Measure and report on progress, both internally and externally, using data disaggregated by sex
Incorporate gender makers into ongoing reporting obligations.
When Mazzetti takes action on the items listed above, we are making Mazzetti better and more emotionally intelligent for both men and women. Together, we will increase the opportunities for women in the field and within our organization.
My daughter has decided she doesn’t want a STEM career, so I hope she finds these kinds of opportunities in her pursuits. Together, lets take care of our kids!