Working Towards Improving Gender Diversity in STEM Industries

March 8th is International Women's Day. It celebrates women's achievements and recognizes progress towards a more gender-equal world. The theme this year is "Each for Equal" which is all about collective individualism and understanding that while everyone is different, collectively we can come together to take action for equality.  This is something that Morrison Hershfield believes deeply as we continue to make efforts towards a more gender-balanced environment both in our offices and in the industries which we participate.

Just one example of our efforts to drive change includes a recent Atlanta event initiated by Morrison Hershfield to improve gender diversity in the data center industry.  The event, co-hosted by Morrison Hershfield, Corgan, Holder and LayerZero in February, was attended by a large group of data center professionals interested in learning more about improving gender diversity.

The session started with a keynote presentation that highlighted the scientific differences between the ways that men and women think, communicate and problem-solve. The keynote also identified ways organizations can leverage this information to gain a competitive advantage while helping advance women within the industry. Following the keynote, a panel of female industry leaders shared stories and insights about their careers and explored what can be done to promote gender diversity within the industry which currently has a remarkable gender disparity in its workforce.  

A keynote on Gender Intelligence

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Did you know that the physiology of male and female brains is different? This is why both genders process information differently.

The keynote was presented by writer, facilitator and frequent speaker on Gender Differences, John Fayad. It focused on the science behind this important topic and what can be done to leverage gender differences to help organizations in the data center industry succeed, while simultaneously working towards the goal of increasing gender equality.

Much like the theme of International Women's Day, this keynote was based upon the understanding that we are equal, but not the same. 

Great minds think unalike.

Discoveries by neuroscientists have illuminated biological differences in the brain structure, chemistry and function between men and women. These differences affect the ways men and women think in a multitude of ways including their language, memory, emotion, vision, hearing and navigation. These differences influence the ways men and women communicate, listen, solve problems, make decisions, lead teams and manage stress.

When men and women understand the nature of their gender differences, they gain greater appreciation for each other’s behavior and actually learn more about their own. Organizational success is found not by expecting each other to think and be the same, but by developing and finding value in the differences.

What is gender intelligence?

“Gender diversity driven by compliance and quotas, isn’t working and never will. By understanding the differences and complimentary nature of men and women, organizations can move from a culture of compliance to one of commitment. They can intentionally and genuinely seek out and engage those differences.” This awareness is what defines gender intelligence and what John Fayad has based his career as a business consultant.  Together with the company, Gender Intelligence Group, he has facilitated countless workshops and conducted leadership assessments and executive coaching sessions to help organizations create a better balance and a more inclusive culture.

Celebrating the differences.

In addition to the providing information about differences between the two sexes, John also references how integrating the strengths of both genders in leadership, helps enable favorable work environments, ethical values, motivation, accountability and innovation. Articles that cover key concepts about the ways that men and women bring value to organization and how to leverage their differences to gain a competitive advantage, can be found on the Gender Intelligence Group's website here

The articles help explain the advantages of using Gender Intelligence and how it can add value to your business including:

  • Responsiveness to clients and markets.
  • Innovation and improved decision-making.
  • Minimized risks and costs.
  • Enhanced safety.
  • Superior financial performance.
  • Inclusive leadership and culture.

The panel of industry leaders.

Following the keynote presentation, a panel of industry experts took the stage. The panel participants included:

  • Heather Bacci of LayerZero Power Systems – Sales Executive
  • Karen Petersburg of Digital Realty – Design Manager
  • Callie Gregory of Holder Construction – Senior Project Manager
  • Alejandra Rodriguez of Corgan – Vice-President, Data Centers

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The panel was moderated by Jacqui Forbes from Morrison Hershfield. She asked the panel, "What has been the most significant challenge of your career?"

The panel agreed that it was difficult to have the confidence it takes to get noticed in an industry that is primarily men. “Confidence is a huge deal in performance,” said Callie Gregory. She went on to explain how she credits part of her success to having a great sponsor who had faith in her and guided her throughout her career. John’s presentation reinforced Callie’s point as he agrees that having men not only mentor but sponsor the success of women is instrumental in enhancing gender diversity in the workplace. "It's important to have people who believe in us and our strengths, especially people who know we deserve a seat at the table." added Callie.

The panel explored other issues. Participants explained how it feels to be the only woman in a room full of men, as is typical in the data center industry.

The panel was also asked, "What changes have you seen in the industry since you started?" Alejandra Rodriguez explained that since she started, her architecture firm has grown to have a 50/50 split between both men and women in their organization although she recognized that did not yet pertain to those working in the data center sector. “Data centers have all the intricacies that I'm really passionate about. It's exciting to know there is a place for women in the industry,” she said.  Heather Bacci explained how she never imagined being a leader in the industry when she was in the earlier stages of her career as a single mother. "It is difficult to find a balance between career and motherhood," she said and went on to explain how she felt she had to work even harder and longer hours than her male counterparts to prove that it wasn't something that would affect her ability to be good at her job. 

Another issue examined by the panel was on the subject of what men and women can both do to improve the experience of working together on jobs. “Treating men and women the exact same isn't enhancing our ability to work on a team level. Each of us as individuals is unique. If you bring out the best in everybody, and allow each to show their strengths, it will give you the ability to have the best team," said Callie.

Making a difference for future generations.

While there is still a long way to go, events like this start a dialogue that helps work towards a more inclusive culture within the data center industry. Today, and every day we are #eachforequal.

For more information on how you can acquire leadership training on Gender Intelligence for your own organization, contact Gender Intelligence Group.

Panelists_CropThe panel: Heather Bacci, Karen Petersburg, Callie Gregory, Alejandra Rodriguez and Jacqui Forbes. 

Morrison Hershfield is a market leading, employee-owned engineering firm committed to making a difference in our communities. We are anchored by exceptional technical expertise and high performing employees across North America. Our highly focused approach to the clients and markets we serve ensures that we deliver the value our clients demand.

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