Build Better Podcast Featured

Creating Spaces for Diversity in the AEC Community

by Emily Langner

Alicia Washington

In episode 22 of the Build Better podcast, Anastasia welcomed Alicia Washington, director of marketing at HRP Associates, an environmental consulting firm headquartered in Farmington, Conn. She is also president-elect of the Society for Marketing Professionals Connecticut chapter (SMPS CT).

Washington shared SMPS CT’s new Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, created to “expand membership and increase chapter participation by attracting more marketing and technical professionals, including men and women from diverse cultural backgrounds.” The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force identified three initiatives, which include bringing in more people of color and men into the organization, and recruiting and educating students about the opportunities that exist in the industry.

While it might come as a surprise that SMPS’s recruitment effort includes recruiting more men, Washington says, “The definition of diversity is variety.” She says that diversity is about creating space for more people to be a part of the same thing, and that it’s about representation, creativeness and innovation, and learning different perspectives and points of view.  She adds, “The more diverse an organization is, the more successful it is.”

Washington points out that diversity also includes policy issues like implementing paid family leave for both women and men, thus creating more opportunities for more people.

As part of the effort to increase student participation, SMPS CT talks to student groups and attends career fairs, and is developing programming, or a “student pathway” for college and high school students to meet people and become more educated about the industry.

As the only Latina in her office for most of her career, Washington is passionate about creating much needed change, for the students she talks to and for her own children. In the coming years, she would like to see more women of color in leadership roles and attending industry events.

Washington says creating a diverse environment of professionals ensures employees are represented within an organization. When it comes to the often difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion, Washington encourages leaders to be aware of their own unconscious biases, and to start having honest conversations about where the company or organization is lacking in diversity. She says that having honest conversations about your biases and putting a plan in place for change are necessary to start the process. She encourages leaders to start by asking, “How can we create an environment for all of our employees to be happy and to thrive?”

Read more about SMPS CT’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative at https://smpsct.org/blog/SMPSWeekDiversity.

Listen to episode 22 now!