United Contractors Magazine September 2020

Page 6


By George Furnanz, Stacy and Witbeck, Inc. UCON President, 2005

A Message to Leaders Like Me: It’s Time for a Change

When UCON asked me to write a note to our industry about the importance of diversity in construction, I was all-in, but didn’t immediately realize what an undertaking and how much nuance, self-reflection, and critical thinking would go into it. This experience of “I’ve got this, but this is a lot!” parallels the many meetings, hard conversations, and long hours that have gone into getting Stacy and Witbeck’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Steering Committee off the ground. Over the past few months, our company has put our approach to diversity and equity under a microscope, and my eyes have been opened by the potential our Steering Committee has to make a powerful and positive impact on our company, and hopefully our industry as well. As an individual and leader of this company, I can say our commitment to this has ebbed and flowed throughout the years. I firmly believe it’s the right thing to do, and shame on us all for allowing such sad and unfortunate acts to kick start our attention on this cause. So, our Steering Committee was formed to help us all focus on the importance of supporting our diverse employees and creating initiatives to better our company that will stick long-term. I’m personally coming to terms with the fact I could have been doing more all along. As a white male, born in San Francisco, I didn’t experience many hardships that weren’t a result of my own stupidity or lack of commitment. It’s not like that for everyone, and it took me a long time to realize that doors opened for me that were shut off to others because of the 6 W W W. U N I T E D C O N T R A C T O R S . O R G

color of their skin, their birthplace, their gender, or any other difference. It’s so important that leaders like me who have realized prejudice exists rather than lived it, do everything we can to level the playing field and make sure everyone can create a fulfilling, successful career in construction. And let’s face it, most leaders in our industry are like me, and haven’t lived it, and we should all have been paying attention a long time ago. There are so many reasons—not only is it the right thing to do, but there are studies upon studies that prove companies are more profitable and innovative when their employees reflect the communities they exist in; that the people doing the work, leading companies and teams, and succeeding, look like them. Armando Tiscareño, a Stacy and Witbeck Vice President, one of our most senior managers, and the Chair of our Steering Committee, has long been an advocate for this reflection and he shares the following narrative about the importance of representation:

Safety Manager, Project Manager, Construction Manager and Office Manager on our Downtown Redmond Link Extension (DRLE) Project are all Mexican-American. (Photo from left to right) Emanuel Alvarez, Armando Tiscareño, Gavino Rodriguez and Karina Herrara.