In today’s landscape, with so much discussion around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI+), it can be difficult to explore the business case, avoid potential fatigue, and draw comparisons without unintentionally shaming anyone. This article takes a different approach by sharing responses from two contractor companies about their journeys under the umbrella of DEI+.
To avoid reducing the conversation to a binary choice, we had originally planned on interviewing three companies. In an effort to be candid, the third contractor chose not to respond, expressing discomfort even with anonymous feedback. That is also part of the journey — we are all at different points in the journey and it’s important to allow space for one another and to acknowledge differences.
DEI+ at McCarthy Building Companies, Inc.
Kamecia Mason, Vice President of DEI at McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., shares what McCarthy is doing in terms of DEI+ initiatives. McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. was established in 1864, has more than 3,000 full-time employees, and is 100% employee owned.
When you made a commitment to changing behaviors and language to make others feel more welcome and included, what did you learn that surprised you?
“Inclusive language is the platinum rule in action — treat others how they want to be treated. I’ve learned over time that there is a good deal of nuance in what it means to leverage inclusive language.
“A great example of that is the use of the foreman vs. foreperson. I’ve had some women share, ’Hey, I’ve worked really hard for that title. Please don’t take that away from me.’ Or they ‘other’ me by saying foreperson while someone else may ask very specifically to be titled foreperson or forewoman.
“I’ve experienced similar preference differences in the use of people-first language (Autistic vs. Person with Autism Spectrum Disorder).
“The benefits of treating people with dignity are worth it.”
What brought this issue home for you personally?
“Focusing on inclusion, equity, and diversity formally started for me in college. In my sophomore year, I petitioned to charter an organization that focused on developing leadership opportunities for our underrecognized student populations as a whole and Black/African American students in particular.
“I had opportunities to spend time with our Chancellor, Vice Chancellors, and various Deans. It never occurred to me that wasn’t the same for everyone. Our leaders held mostly open-door policies — it was a matter of better sharing that the door was open.”
What led to the decision to make your company more diverse? What are you hoping to see from this change?
“We recognize the wide range of benefits that come from leading a diverse organization. Diversity adds quantifiable value. A McKinsey report found companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity were 36% more likely to outperform on profitability.1 Also, teams with diverse members make decisions 87% better than individuals.”2
“As we’ve increased our focus on DEI+, we’ve seen increased employee engagement scores, stronger retention rates, and an enhanced ability to lead inclusively. Our engagement is measured via an employee engagement survey every three years and employee engagement pulse surveys. The data is used to adjust/enhance our DEI strategy. We also added a leadership development program focused on inclusive leadership to better support our business.”
What kind of changes have you seen in the expressed attitudes of your employees, customers, or vendors?
“Sometimes the little things are also a big win. Leveraging inclusive leadership has helped meetings become more engaging and productive. Instead of a few voices dominating, more leaders lean in and ask for the voice that hasn’t been heard yet — a calling in of sorts.