Written by Maria Rolling (Communication BA ’12)
In December 2017 my company, Jacobs (a global engineering and construction firm), acquired CH2M bringing our company headcount to 77,000 in over 400 offices across the world. Our CEO made it clear that with this acquisition our goal was to focus on retaining talent and building a better model for diversity and inclusion in leadership – something that we had struggled with for years. The senior leadership team and board of directors developed a plan to push these goals both from the top down, as well as bottom up. A huge part of this meant an intense focus on the employee networks – 7 networks with about 12,000 participants in total.
In early May, I had the incredible privilege and opportunity to travel to Dallas for an employee network integration summit. We were taking the best part of legacy CH2M’s employee networks and ours, and integrating them. This was a major event focused on inclusion and diversity and how we support that mission. I am excited to see the new networks we’ll be welcoming to our company that we haven’t had in the past – OneWorld (cultural sharing), Harambee (Black), Enlace (Latino), and VetNet (Veterans) – as well as the expansion of networks that both companies had – Women’s, Careers (professional development focused), Prism (LGBT+).
I attended on behalf of the Women’s Network and was just so proud and excited to see what the global steering committee accomplished for our group. We now have a strong framework to guide membership, offer training and development, connect with senior leaders, and communicate with the global network on exciting news and success stories. All of the talented and passionate ladies from the global steering committee who helped develop and lead this summit did an outstanding job!
Inclusion and diversity are topics I have been passionate about ever since I can remember. It all really came to light for me though when I transitioned from high school to college. I went from a predominantly white bubble to a cultural explosion my first year living on campus at the University of Cincinnati. Everything that happened in that one year changed how I viewed the world. I was so fortunate to meet people from different races, religions, cultural backgrounds, genders, and sexual orientations – many of whom I’ve still stayed friends with over the years. I grew so much from that experience and it will always be something I look back on and appreciate. The emotions and the energy I felt then was similar to everything that happened at the summit. We had 150 people attend and the amount of diversity in the room was so palpable, even random strangers in the hotel stopped by to admire what was going on.
Over the 2.5 days we had together, we participated in a series of breakout sessions including: moving from unconscious bias to conscious inclusion, leveraging your influence to gain employee network group support, and getting real about diversity and inclusion. We heard from a variety of senior leadership, including the SVPs of the different lines of business. We got to hear where they currently stand in terms of diversity, their goals for improving, and the plan they’ve been implementing. Given how much time our senior leadership dedicated to attending and participating at every session, their passion and intent to improve our culture was truly genuine. Here were some of the key take-aways I had:
Our ultimate goal is transformative talent retention
Sustainable inclusion means to not just treat diversity like a number, it has to stand the test of time.
Don’t be discouraged when you hear no to a request, find a different way to get answers
Our employee network groups are the catalyst for change
If you’re passionate about something, be proactive and get involved – if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu
Upon leaving the summit I felt a fantastic mixture of emotions, primarily excitement and hope. I came back to my office with so many ideas and look forward to harnessing that energy to incorporate those ideas into Cincinnati Jacobs Women’s Network and the office as a whole.