Empowering women has been part of DPR Construction’s entrepreneurial spirit since the beginning. When the company developed its first mission in 1992, “to be a truly great construction company by the year 2000,” it cited a tangible image to have minorities and women in senior level estimator and project manager positions.
“We’ve always aspired to be a diverse and inclusive company,” said Jody Quinton, who serves on DPR’s Management Team. “It’s inspiring to see the progress that has been made, especially over the last few years as more and more companies focus on raising awareness, providing training and driving change.”
In a traditionally male-dominated industry, construction companies, like DPR, have an opportunity to set an example and help nudge the industry forward with increased unconscious bias training and dialogue around what diversity and inclusion looks like for the leading technical builder as it expands its operations internationally.
In that vein, the Women Who Build of DPR met in Amsterdam at the Women in Construction Europe conference late last year. The DPR team, consisting of members from DPR’s U.S. and Amsterdam offices, met over the course of two days to not only discuss the progress that women have made, but also the tangible steps can be taken to make the industry even more equitable.
“It helped spur conversations that I wouldn’t have participated in otherwise, and it helped me think about how I can be more proactive in my day-to-day work,” said Shelby Riddell, who currently works as the Southwest marketing lead but is transitioning into a new marketing leadership role for DPR’s Europe and Asia-Pacific operations.
Riddell found DPR when interviewing a woman for a class project who happened to be recruiting for the company. Upon learning more, she knew that DPR was a place where she could explore different roles.
“Having such diverse interests and limitless curiosity, this was hugely important to me,” Riddell said.
Mary Romeo happened upon construction in an introductory class in college and was drawn to DPR because of its reputation for operating differently and for pushing innovative efforts in construction. After volunteering with AmeriCorps after graduation, she knew DPR was the only company she wanted to work for and now serves as a preconstruction manager on a Data Center campus project near Amsterdam.
Many of the women who build at DPR stumbled upon it serendipitously and come from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds, but all found themselves drawn to the spirit and strong values that DPR upholds. Rachael Broad, who initially wanted to be an architect before pursuing engineering, works as a project engineer in the Amsterdam office. According to her, DPR gave her more purpose and meaning than where she had previously worked.
“I felt that I had found something I didn’t even know existed and aligned with many of my closely-held values,” Broad said.
As a sponsor of the Women in Construction Europe conference, DPR led a panel discussion about unconscious bias and gave a skills-based training presentation on negotiation. The panel discussion was especially powerful as it gave attendees the opportunity to speak frankly about the challenges they face as women in a still heavily male-dominated industry, such as a lack of female mentors and prevailing stereotypes.
“My drive and natural leadership have been misunderstood as ‘intense’ or ‘bitchy’,” Riddell said.
Lael Blum echoed a similar frustration, saying she often has a difficult time being heard.
“It’s a fine line to tread between being confident and driven, and being perceived as tough and bullish. This is not something men have to compete with in the same way,” she said.
Romeo added that she wishes there was a greater spirit of women helping other women.
“I think women work so hard to get where they are that sometimes they forget to look back and help other women in the industry,” Romeo said.
As DPR continues to establish a presence overseas, it continues its journey to actively support and promote women. Its operations in Europe reflect those values—within a year of operating from its base in Amsterdam, more than a third of its leadership positions are held by women.
Blum worked for a DPR competitor in the Bay Area before moving to Amsterdam with her family but found that she missed the construction career she had built.
“When I got a call that DPR was opening an office in Amsterdam I was absolutely thrilled to join a company I had long admired and get to continue in an industry and career I love while living in Amsterdam,” Blum said. She now serves as a project manager.
By DPR continuing to prioritize the advancement of women, it continues to lead and help change the field for the better. It is a business imperative to advance women both internally and externally, and DPR hopes that by providing more training, celebrating women who build, and participating in the conferences to create more open and honest dialogue, it will continue to help shape an industry where women are able to succeed no matter their position or employer.
“Working at DPR means you were part of an incredible team to make it happen. Construction doesn’t happen because of only one person, we’re only able to accomplish what we do because we work together so well,” Romeo said.