How Shawmut Achieved 100% Pay Equity and Used Technology to Tackle Unconscious Bias

With revenues of $ 1.5 billion a year and offices coast to coast, it would be easy to rank Boston-based Shawmut Design and Construction among the Top 100 Construction Management Companies.

But when you take a closer look at the company, from its 100% employee-owned structure to its 35% female workforce in an industry where only 10% of workers are women, a different picture emerges. .

While this is by no means your grandfather’s construction company – the name comes from its founding near the Shawmut subway station in Boston in 1982 – it is also an organization that prides itself on progressive policies for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Just see Shawmut achieve 100% pay equity between men and women, or his focus on increasing the diversity of his workforce, which has resulted in the hiring of 15% more women. and 5% more people of color between 2019 and 2020. Promotions for women also increased 3% during this period, while those of people of color increased 8%.

Here, Construction Dive chats with Marianne Monte, Human Resources and Administration Manager at Shawmut, to explain how the company emphasizes diversity while promoting from within, how it controls unconscious bias in the pairing of mentors and even how she makes sure hate graffiti is not tolerated on her job sites.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

CONSTRUCTION DIVING: Shawmut has established itself as a leader in achieving 100% pay equity in the construction industry. How did you get there?

MARIANNE MONTE, SHAWMUT: The first step was really to ask, “Do we salute women and men equally for the same job, the same job, the same level of experience and the same performance?” “

To operationalize this, we first had to change our compensation practices, because we were giving merit adjustments on people’s anniversary dates, instead of a common review date.

Marianne Monte

Courtesy of Shawmut Design and Construction

So we decided to do a temperature check twice a year, in March and September, to calibrate all our talents in the same job or the same job families, and say: “Is Jane getting paid too?” although Joe? »For the same experience, the same working time and the same performance.

We also hired an outside law firm to review these positions because they don’t know Jane or Joe, they just know they are part of the same job family. And they come back and said you don’t have a lot of loopholes, but you do.

This led to a discussion of the appropriate margin of error, or the difference, between two similar employees. Some companies might say 30%, some companies might say 0%. For us, if Jane and Joe have a similar job, similar experience, and similar performance, we have determined our range to be less than 10%.

Because we were committed to reviewing this twice a year in March and September, we then got the opportunity to bring up Jane or Joe over time. It doesn’t have to be all at once.

But in 2019 we budgeted enough market adjustments to be able to correct those who were considered late.

In a predominantly male industry, 35% of Shawmut employees are women, which is three and a half times the rate for general construction. How did it happen?

In 2015 there was already a core of women at Shawmut who really wanted to focus more on issues of women in the industry and understand where we were as a company and industry.

What we learned was that we were very successful at the lower levels of hiring and retaining women, but once we got to the point of getting into that leadership position, we lost them.

And the answer that was always accepted before was, well, women, like any industry, had babies and left the workforce.

But once we digged that out and interviewed past and current employees, we learned that they don’t actually leave the job market, but leave the company because they don’t see anyone in front of them as a model, a woman they could point to. to and say, “I want to be like this.”

So we already had some great talent, we just needed a way to advance not only women, but also people of color, to the top of our hiring pyramid faster so that we didn’t lose them. We decided that we needed an executive sponsorship, where you have an executive in a leadership position sponsoring several of these people at the bottom of the pyramid.

And that leader becomes their advocate, so that when we get a $ 400 million job, you can make sure it’s populated with these young talented talent who can not only develop their skills but increase their exposure to the more complicated ones. and the sexiest. projects.

We are now in our third round of sponsorships, and it has paid off in spades. We’re seeing a 25% promotion rate, and these people are ready because they’ve been exposed to executive leadership.

Shawmut has also recently started using technology to match mentors and mentees, to overcome unconscious biases in the matchmaking process. Why?

Our mentorship program is therefore different and distinct from our executive mentoring program, which selects specific candidates for a career. Mentoring is really designed to give anyone new to the business a mentor to help them navigate Shawmut’s internal environment.

And our philosophy around mentoring really goes back to the heart of our work on diversity, equity and inclusion. Part of what we train people on is that we all come to this life with preconceptions. Even the most “awake” person in the room has their own unconscious biases.

And when you choose your own mentor, you tend to look to someone who you say, “This person is kind of like me.

It’s no surprise this industry is chock full of white men because you live in these neighborhoods, you go to churches with people who look like you, for the most part, and there is nothing wrong with it. to that.

It just doesn’t give the breadth of experience and perspective that you would like to create for better results for our clients. It is undesirable to choose a mentor who looks like you because you are never going to see another worldview.

So the system that we bought through a company called Chronus takes a lot of that out and focuses on what you want to learn, versus who you want to learn from. It matches people based on the desires and outcomes they instead want to see in their career.

A superintendent, for example, could be matched with maybe an estimator because he doesn’t know enough about how jobs are estimated.

Much of the focus on inclusion in construction over the past 18 months has come down to eliminating hatred on the job site. How does Shawmut do this?

Last year there was an incident in Los Angeles where initially there was just too much graffiti in general in the bathrooms on the construction site.

So we cleaned them, we rubbed them. We made sure to monitor now. We set up cameras to know who was coming in, and we had our own people watching him very regularly so that we knew when that was happening.

Sure enough, a few months later there was more graffiti, and it was much more offensive. It was a zero tolerance time for us.

We were able to identify who the individuals of the subcontractor were, and they were immediately terminated. And then there was a withdrawal, and the chief executive explained what had happened. And it was no longer a problem after that.


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