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January 2021 Program Blog - Building Gender & Racial Equity

Did you miss out on our January program? Titled “Building Gender & Racial Equity: Expanding Your Network, this program challenged attendees both personally and professionally. Speakers for this program included Jennifer Carlson, Senior Project Coordinator at Ryan Companies and President of the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC); and Wale Falade, Principal at FIHÀN Design + Architecture and the incoming Vice President of MSP NomaDuring the program, we dug into what it looks like to have a racially and gender diverse network, the benefits of having that type of network, and how to be intentional about building it. Check out some of the Q&A portions of the meeting below!

  • Question: What does it mean to have a diverse professional network?
    • Jennifer: Make sure your network includes people from outside your industry. Surround yourself with people that aren’t like you, and be open to different ideas within that network.
    • Wale: Reaching out across racial, cultural, and gender lines is key. Building a diverse professional network isn’t done for the sake of checking a box, it’s making sure that connection is mutually beneficial for everyone involved.
  • Question: What does it look like to be intentional with a diverse professional network?
    • Jennifer: It’s getting out of your comfort zone. Don’t be comfortable with the same people you’re with every day. Doing so will afford relationships that help you down the road. If you surround yourself with everyone that thinks and acts like you do, you’ll never leave that mindset.
    • Wale: Be proactive in building relationships. The idea is to authentically build relationships and establish diversity in your firms and networking relationships. 
  • Question: What are the first initial steps in building a diverse network?
    • Jennifer: Get used to being uncomfortable. You’ll have conversations with people that you’ve never talked to before. Volunteer or find a group to volunteer with. Go to conferences or attend events like those that SMPS-TC hosts. Make connections with those hosting or the panelists.
    • Wale: It’s like dating. The first date will always be uncomfortable. Go into your address book or LinkedIn and print it out. Look at which connections you’ve made over the last year and how many of those new connections are diverse or not - gender, race, education, culture, etc. Set a goal for how much effort you’ll put in - for example, “I will commit to making one (1) new connection each month. Look at the connections of those diverse connections.
  • Question: How do you build a network virtually - in a COVID-19 world?
    • Jennifer: Make bigger connections. Look at your own organizations and identify where and how you’re diverse. This is the year of YES! Just do it. You’ve learned and reflected, in 2021 it’s time to do the work.
    • Wale: COVID limits certain things but has also created opportunities. I’ve found there are more postings online about events - people are making more of a marketing effort because it’s a virtual world right now. Start attending events across the country or ocean. 

Check out our upcoming events and programs here, including our February program with Meg Winch titled “Effective Virtual Business Development & Communications: The Master Class for Principal Level Engagement.” Join us and other SMPS chapters across the nation for an engaging presentation on better communication in a virtual environment. 

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