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Elevating Inclusion & Diversity – a Core Company Value

Jacobs’ Jan Walstrom chaired a special panel on Diversity & Inclusion at the 2019 Environmental Industry Summit and shared her thoughts and personal experience as a woman working in the engineering industry in an EBJ article.

Our very own Global Environmental Market Director and Senior Vice President & General Manager for Global Environmental Solutions, Jan Walstrom, chaired a special panel on Diversity & Inclusion at the 2019 Environmental Industry Summit in San Diego.

Following the conference, Jan shared her thoughts and personal experience as a woman working in the engineering industry in a recent Environmental Business Journal article, Inclusion and Diversity Becomes a Core Company Value at Jacobs.

“Being a female, non-engineer (I have a B.S. in Biology), starting my career in a very traditional engineering/design firm was a daunting challenge. What I did have in my favor was that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was ramping up its Superfund program activities, so the opportunities for someone like me coming out of college were significant. There simply were no experienced environmental/hazardous waste professionals, as the industry was in its infancy,” Jan shared.

“I was fortunate enough as a young professional to be aligned to a project manager that challenged me, mentored me, and provided me constant, expanding opportunity,” she continued. “I looked for opportunities to expand my project and program management capabilities by helping other leaders with critical client challenges.”

Fast forward to today, Jan believes that our industry still has a way to go. “Although boardroom diver­sity is increasing, women remain under­represented and progress is slow. For the S&P 500, women were only 24% of directors in 2018, up from 22% in 2017 and 16% in 2008. In many ways these numbers parallel the 2018 Environmental Financial Consulting Group (EFCG) E&C Industry Survey which showed women holding only 20% of executive leadership positions.

A more recent survey by McKinsey & Co., summarized at the May 2019 Groundbreaking Women in Construction Talent Management Conference in San Francisco, found that within E&C compa­nies surveyed, women make up just 14% of industry vice presidents and 20% of C-suite level positions.”

Having joined Jacobs in 2017 as part of the CH2M acquisition, Jan shared, “I can proudly say that this firm embraces inclusivity and diversity as fundamental values of who we are, how we behave, and how we collaborate to serve our clients, our communities and shareholders.”

“At Jacobs, we recognize the value that inclusion and diversity brings to our clients, our business and to enabling the richness of our firm.  We believe that inclusiveness and diverse experiences are keys to innovation; innovation is key to client success and differentiation in the marketplace; and client success and differentiation are key to growth. Diverse companies are more innovative and better positioned to succeed,” she concluded.

Walking the Talk

Chair and CEO Steve Demetriou is pushing forward gender equality, not only through sponsoring the Jacobs Women’s Network, but also in the industry as a Catalyst CEO Male Champion of ChangeHighlights of Jacobs’ Inclusion and Diversity program:

  • Reconfigured Board of Directors membership to align with the company’s emphasis on inclusion – 45% of the Board is now either female or ethnically diverse.
  • Empowered eight employee networks representing more than 23,000 employees. Each of these groups has a senior executive sponsor to provide advocacy, guidance and support.
  • Strengthened the diversity of the Jacobs Executive Leadership Team to 63%, 40% of whom are female, and appointed the first female Executive Vice President in the company’s history.
  • Undertook a full pay equity review as part of the company’s annual remuneration review, and prioritized budget for any actions required to address inequity in like-for-like roles.
  • Held senior leadership accountable for recruiting diverse candidates, both internally and externally. And in fiscal 2019, the company instituted inclusion and diversity goals among culture-based leadership metrics in annual compensation for the company’s senior leadership team.
  • Launched conscious inclusion training and are extending it to all employees over the next year.
  • Improved the company’s talent management and development process to ensure opportunities for training, development and career advancement are distributed fairly across the company.

Closing the Gap

As a takeaway, Jan outlines four actions for attracting and retaining a diverse and inclusive workforce:

  1. We need to change how we communicate to the public what engineering is and what engineers do – particularly in environmental engineering – to address the urgent challenges of environmental stewardship and climate change.
  2. We must determine what attracts and retains women to stay in the engineering profession since the numbers demonstrate a sharp decline in the engineering workforce once they have graduated.
  3. We need to double-down on inclusivity in regard to race, gender, physical abilities, culture differences, lifestyles, age, background, experience, religion, economic and social status, sexual orientation and marital status.
  4. We need to be role models and tell our stories of success. Role models, mentors and leaders are critical for the future generations of engineers. They not only inspire, but also can support others wanting to advance in their careers.
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