Liveblogging WCCCDS 2017: Why Women Matter in Construction Claims and Risk Management

Once again, West Coast Casualty Service is hosting their annual construction defect seminar at the Disneyland Hotel. As I have done in past years, I decided to liveblog some of the topics featured. One of the panels scheduled that I did not want to miss was a topic on the evolving role of women in the construction claims and risk management industry.

Why Women Matter — the Role of Diversity and Inclusion of Women in Construction Industry Risk Management and Claims Management

Panel: Danette Beck, Lee Cunningham, Terri Mestas, Brenda Radmacher, Jena Rissman Atlass, Dave Simons

Starting with an audience poll, Ms. Radmacher brought attention to the fact that while some positive changes have occurred in terms of diversity and inclusion, there is still more work to be done. According to the polling of the approximately 1,200 attendees, 60% of firms have more than 3 women in a leadership role. However less than 10% of decision makers at those firms are women. This is all in spite of the fact that 60% of the audience reported women being more profitable overall for the firm.

What is interesting is that while individual firms may struggle with improving diversity and specifically including more women in leadership roles, the market is demanding it. One example given was when a firm was asked to re-compete on an account with a longtime client, it became clear that the previous male-dominated team wasn’t going to win the contract. Once a woman was put in a key role in the proposed team, the firm won the account.

Industry Facts

  • More women in the construction industry
  • Most women tend to be in financial or legal roles, not on site, in the field, where many risks originate
  • As of 2014, 8.9% (872,000) of the 9,813,000 construction workers are women
  • As of 2010, the number of women in construction was back down to the same amount as in 2000, compared to pre-recession
  • Across all industries, women account for 47% of the workforce, so the construction industry lags almost all other industries, including even mining and agriculture

The Impact of Diversity

Repeated studies indicate that gender and ethnic diversity are responsible for substantial increases in company profitability. Especially when women are included in key decision-making roles.

Some examples:

  • When attempting to settle a stalled negotiation over a claim, two women representing opposing parties were able to have a simple and direct conversation that finally got things moving — something repeated email chains failed to accomplish
  • How communications are handled is just as relevant, if not more so, than what is being communicated, so being mindful of that is key for successful and expedient resolutions
  • “Step back, it doesn’t matter who’s right” is often a great point of leverage in a stalled negotiation
  • Gender communication expectations depend greatly on the role one is playing in a dispute
  • “Why are you yelling at me” can also be an effective way to bring conversation back to a more effective and productive level

Moving Forward

The panel left the audience with the following suggestions for continuing to support increasing the role of women in construction claims and risk management:

  • Need to encourage more women to join
  • It’s OK for women to “sing their praises,” celebrating and highlighting their successes
  • Formal and informal networking groups are critical
  • Address the “fear” that some women may have about the industry
  • “Train, train train — be an expert at your craft”

Image courtesy Wikimedia