Global Diversity Awareness Month

October 20, 2022

During October, Global Diversity Awareness Month pays tribute to the diverse minds and beliefs held by various cultures around the world. To honor this observance, SMPS member Alexandra Brown shares a few thoughts about diversity in the industry and workplace. Alexandra is marketing manager for Kaufman Lynn Construction and sits on the SMPS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee.

What does diversity mean to you? To me, diversity means variety of perspectives. How we grew up, how people treat us, where we went to school, our occupation—all that shapes how we look at the world. No two people will ever have the exact same vantage point, but the more we have in common with someone, the more likely we are to see the same thing. And that may feel good, but it prevents us from seeing the larger picture.

I think if we only surround ourselves with people like us, we stop growing. And that applies to individuals and businesses. Sure, we can probably get by doing what we know, but if we want to innovate, lead, and create solutions, we’d better look at issues from all angles. And for that, you need to have different perspectives.

What made you decide to be a part of the SMPS DEI Committee? Looking around our industry, I see so much wasted potential. Specifically, the potential of women in operations. It’s not just that there aren’t enough women who pursue a career in construction, but we lose too many in the early years of their careers.  In my experience, that’s not so much because the men in leadership are actively working against women, rather a failure to properly engage the women. And for the most part, that’s simply because the mostly male mentors don’t recognize themselves in young women. I was thrilled when SMPS launched the DEI committee, because I believe we can transform business through marketing leadership.

What type of impact would you like to make while on the committee? I want to help curate resources and create a set of tools that our members can use to educate themselves and to lead change in their own firms.

Could you share an example of what makes a positive and diverse workplace? To me, a positive and diverse workplace is one where people of all backgrounds and identities are treated with respect and valued for their contributions. Where questions are encouraged, and information is shared openly. Where the individual is celebrated for their strengths and supported in areas of weakness or personal challenges. Where we strive for excellence but keep work in perspective and never forget to care for one another.

As someone who grew up outside of the United States, could you share your perspective on diversity and how it’s different from the United States and where you grew up? Growing up in Germany, diversity was not really a topic (which probably has more to do with my age than my nationality). However, I do recall lively debate and political action around gender equality. So, I guess you could say my perspective on diversity was much narrower before I lived in the U.S.

Any final thoughts on how to create a positive, diverse workplace and how we as individuals can help? From an organizational standpoint, it’s important to be intentional. Understand why you need diversity and what is currently standing in the way. If all you ever do is set target quotas for recruiting, you have missed the point. Sure, it’s good to have specific metrics to gauge performance, but simply hiring for diversity and not creating an internal culture that embraces diversity is putting the cart before the horse.

As an individual, we may not be in a position to set policy, but we can lead by example. Seek input from people outside your inner circle. Listen with an open mind. Be an advocate and tell the stories of those that tend to be overlooked.