There are more than 1.1 million women working in the construction industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this pales in comparison to the near 10 million men in the field, women around the world are joining forces to narrow this gap and help raise each other up in the industry.
In fact, this was the impetus behind Women in BIM (WIB), an organization created in 2012 to improve diversity and inclusion in the construction industry. What started in the UK as a single group has now expanded to nearly 2,000 members and 60 regional leads across 50 countries. Seeing a void in the Arizona market, our very own Abarna Krishnakumar spearheaded the launch of WIB Phoenix.
The group held its inaugural meeting earlier this month and saw women come from all corners of the Valley to build relationships and forge a supportive community. Abarna shares what motivated her to bring WIB to Arizona and what the future looks like for the group.
What inspired you to bring Women in BIM to AZ?
Earlier this year, I attended an ENR conference held in Phoenix and one of the panelist sessions focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. One of those panelists talked about how she was trying to find like-minded folks in her city. Those with similar careers, roles, aspirations, etc. But she couldn't find anything, so she created a networking group in her community. Their group would gather to talk about challenges, share experiences, and learn.
Her story inspired me and I had been following Women in BIM and their events and saw they drew amazing speakers and were discussing really cool topics. I thought, “I want that. I want to be able to attend something like that.” But there was nothing like that in Phoenix.
So, I reached out to Women in BIM about bringing it here. They gave me the requirements for being a regional lead and a short time later, we launched the Phoenix chapter.
What was the response?
There was so much enthusiasm. Everyone who attended said they would 100% return. Some offered their space to host the next event, others offered to speak. So we’ve already got the next six months somewhat sorted out, which is fantastic.
What was surprising is many of them actually heard about it from their male colleagues who shared it with them and said you need to go to this.
What are your goals for the group?
I want to build a strong network of folks who can pick up their phone or shoot an email to one another when they're stuck on a problem or to bounce ideas around.
COVID has definitely isolated a lot of people and put a pause on professional social gatherings. Even students who graduated during that time; many of them don’t know where to begin. Then there are expats like myself who don't know anybody else outside of the workplace. I want this to serve as another way to network with like-minded people and let it flourish from there.
This will benefit overall teams, departments, and companies because it will help with upskilling. From a BIM perspective, there is still a lack of exposure to large-scale standards and things are constantly changing. We have to continually up our knowledge and skillsets to remain competitive. Events like this will hopefully contribute to that growth.
I just need one person to come back to me a year from now and say, “Abarna, I attended this event and it changed my life, it changed my perspective, or I got that promotion because I found inspiration in this.” That is success to me. It just takes one.