After I meekly shared this idea with Christy Zweig and brought her and my colleague, Jaden Anderson, into the fold, they wisely did some research from Zweig Group’s own data. The results are crushing. I wish I could lead with the data, but that isn’t true to the events (I have a history degree; these things matter). Here’s what we learned within half an hour of re-distributing our survey responses based on gender:
- 100%. That’s the number of women principals who have ever considered leaving the AE industry. This number compares to 49% of men. I cannot get over this figure. Every single woman in a principal role who responded to our survey has considered leaving this industry. Every. Single. One.
- 0%. That’s the number of women who were given any portion of their ownership for free. One in three men (33%) answered yes to this survey question. Not a single woman was seen as contributing enough to be awarded ownership, while one-third of men passed the test for an ownership gift.
After receiving this data, we set out to move from concept to execution of this platform. And that’s when I panicked. I have a hard time articulating my reservations about ElevateHer, but I think the most honest way to say it is that I have worked my entire career to be a respected professional, period. I have never been a member of a “women in business” organization; I passed up on the “ladies in law” groups, and I don’t want to be divided from my peers based on presence of ovaries. That isn’t what I am about. I’m about closing deals and getting results. Hell, I didn’t even join a sorority (they weren’t exactly begging for my membership, either).
What I am about is using my visibility to counter the number one challenge identified by principals of Hot Firms: recruiting and retention. The talent shortage in this industry is real.Women are entering engineering and architectural programs at higher rates than ever, but they aren’t staying. And the ones who stay and who grow into principal roles have thought really hard about leaving. We have to find a way to make this industry one that appeals to every bright mind. Women need to feel that they can have a meaningful career as engineers or designers or surveyors or CAD techs. To me, ensuring that those who enter this industry stay in this industry is tantamount to addressing this problem in real time.