“We need to continue to change conversations”
For International Women’s Day, Ivette Vanas, Skanska USA Building’s Corporate Senior Vice President of Risk Management, shares insights and actions on helping women move ahead. Ivette is the first female member of that Business Unit’s Senior Leadership Team.
An action you are taking to help advance women in our industry is…
I am proud to be one of the founders of the Skanska Women’s Network in the U.S., which we launched several years ago. This group is intended to help mentor, develop and retain women at Skanska, and to attract more women to the construction industry. There are now Women’s Network chapters across most of Skanska’s geography in the U.S., and as the network expands I try and stay in touch with the local leaders to help guide them and provide support.
I try to be a visible leader. When I visit Skanska offices, I make it a point to go and connect with the women in the office. I want them to know that I support them, advocate for them and that they can come to me for advice. I try to mentor people informally wherever possible. Also, as much as I can I sit on panels so the industry sees that Skanska elevates women into senior leadership roles.
Why is this an important topic for you?
Because I can see the impact it has: not just with women, but with men. This is important to our business. It has been really rewarding to see some of Skanska’s senior male leaders in the U.S. begin to understand what we need to do to help women in our company and our industry. When we first started the Skanska Women’s Network, some of those leaders didn’t understand that group’s importance. Today, they appreciate the value of the Women’s Network and the impact it has on our employees and our business. The Women’s Network has provided the groundwork for inclusive conversations, which has provided everyone with a greater understanding of different perspectives.
What are some next steps for making construction more inclusive to men and women?
We need to continue to change conversations. A lot of our words and behaviors are driven by biases, and when those biases are brought up it is easy for people to become defensive about them. The more we can talk about our inherent biases without getting defensive about them, the better society will be. We need to spend a little more time reflecting on ourselves and changing the conversations so we start to learn from each other, and can leverage our differences to truly make us stronger together.