More than 100 industry leaders and stakeholders came together June 25 for ABC's fourth annual Diversity & Inclusion Summit to discuss the value of diversity in construction and promote the association's mission within diverse groups.
Cathy Padalino, senior vice president at AON National Financial Services Product Group
, and Laura Lapidus, risk control director at CNA Insurance
, kicked off the summit with a session on workplace harassment prevention. “There’s sexual harassment under the law, and then there’s just bad behavior. Your first step as an employer is to manage the bad behavior,” said Padalino. Both speakers emphasized the importance of leadership’s role in preventing harassment, as well as the impact harassment can have on the company’s reputation and bottom line.
In a keynote address, Robb Wong, associate administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Government Contracting and Business Development
, shed light on the critical role small businesses play in job creation. “If a large business wins a contract, they shift the staff. If a small business wins a contract, they hire,” he stated. Wong also emphasized that while minority business certifications are important in winning work, contractors should always lead with quality, not just credentials.
Leadership development professional Jennifer Brown delivered the second keynote address of the day, underscoring the need for diverse groups to have allies in the workplace so that they don’t feel the need to “cover” aspects of themselves to be accepted. “Diversity of thought leads to innovation,” Brown said. She encouraged individuals to be authentic in who they are, and to bring their own unique value to their organizations.
Joanne Brooks, vice president and counsel at The Surety & Fidelity Association of America
, shared insights on the importance of a surety bonding relationship in business development. Brooks said that the number one reason contractors fail is by taking on too much work, and a good surety relationship can go far in helping a business properly manage the amount of work it takes on while leaving room for growth.
Another panel spotlighted diversity efforts at the local ABC level, featuring Jimmy Greene of the ABC Greater Michigan Chapter
, Brian Sampson of the ABC Empire State Chapter
and Mike Henderson of the ABC Baltimore Metro Chapter
. Each shared how their organization is working toward achieving ABC’s goals of expanding diversity and inclusion initiatives, delivering best practices and addressing the workforce shortage.
The summit concluded with a panel on best practices in supply chain diversity, with both subcontractors and general contractors sharing their perspectives on best practices MBE firms can bring to the table in the pre-construction and construction processes. Panelists from the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area included Donna Venerable Davis, CEO of D&L Cleanup
, a woman-owned full service cleaning company; Carolyn Ellison, director of marketing, citizenship and community engagement for Turner Construction
; Linda Graves, vice president of diversity and community affairs at Gilbane Building Company
; Brad Lewis, corporate director of supplier diversity at Hensel Phelps
; Gregory Malcolm, founder and president of roofing company IronShore Contracting, LLC
; and Cristina Vena, president and CEO of Plexus Group
, a telecommunications and electrical company. The moderator was ABC National Diversity Committee member Kirby Wu, CEO of Wu and Associates