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  • 1.  Employee/Employer Discrimination Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

    Posted 03-09-2021 12:03 PM
    Edited by Oanh Le 03-27-2021 02:00 PM

    Dear ASCE members,

    It has been a while since I have logged on. There is something that keeps getting at me. I read a recent article shared to us about International Women's Day (See article below). It is a short read and says that there is not enough women in the construction sector. I am wondering if this is an echo that could be heard in the civil engineering sector as well. 

    Excuse me for being as straightforward as I am, but we are going through one of the most chaotic and dangerous times. High unemployment rate gives rise to crime rates, a rise in homelessness, and other types of extremist violence. It does not seem to me that it is a matter of encouraging women into the industry but keeping people in the industry. There is enough discrimination and terrorism outside of the workplace, it's even more difficult when it finds its way into the workplace. Employers should stop undermining and hindering the early professional development and growth of young engineers. It is disengaging and it's terrible for moral. It shows no real value in the companies mission and value statements and in fact and it does not help to move the industry forward. 

    Let me give you a real life example that I personally experienced. I worked for a company that sold me the idea that they start their employees off on a 100% baseline and provide training for new employees. The first two to three months they had me billing at a 25% to 50% billing rate. After that they expected me to pick my performance up to an 80%-20% rate half way through the year. What they basically did was set me at a quarter of the performance rate of the rest of my peers, sometimes if I was lucky, half of the performance of my peers. And here is the thing, most of the work that I did wasn't actually training material until about the third or fourth month. If this issn't clear, it is the equivalent of starting a college student starting off with a 2.0 GPA, if not, worse. The more you accumulate a 2.0 GPA, the more difficult it is to pick it up. 

    This economy does not benefit from discriminatory and hostile work environments and we can't have leaders, business leaders, bullying subordinates to save the budget for a temporary period of gratification when they risk the career and livelihood of young professionals they choose to turn away from. When leaders are irresponsible in their decisions, they need to take accountability. It is bad for moral and shows no real meaning to those mission and values that are shared to the public and among employees.

    Article: https://www.building.co.uk/news/still-not-enough-women-in-construction-survey-finds/5110804.article?MessageRunDetailID=4557978820&PostID=26644808&utm_medium=email&utm_source=rasa_io



    Oanh Le (She/Her)
    Rochdale MA

  • 2.  RE: Employee/Employer Discrimination Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

    Posted 03-18-2021 10:04 AM
    Hi Oanh,

    It sounds like your experience with your employer was very frustrating. If a business can't keep their employees fully utilized, I would expect the business to either downsize or lose a lot of staff to other opportunities. I hope that in your next position, you are able to find an employer who you feel better keeps their promises to their staff.

    Don't give up!

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 3.  RE: Employee/Employer Discrimination Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

    Posted 03-22-2021 10:29 AM
    Thank you Mr. Siegel.

    Oanh Le EIT, A.M.ASCE (She/Her)
    Rochdale, MA

  • 4.  RE: Employee/Employer Discrimination Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

    Posted 03-22-2021 09:14 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 03-22-2021 12:11 PM
    Hi Oanh,

    The topic of women and diversity in the workplace for the civil and construction engineering fields is near and dear to me, so I felt compelled to reply to your thread.

    I am not seeing the correlation though between your point about % utilization, and this being a discriminatory or hostile work environment, or one that initially "sets back" new hires.

    Most companies bill out new hires at a low % utilization for the first few months.  I would imagine that most or all of them do not measure performance of an individual employee by their % utilization.  Rather, they would be looking at work product, getting things done on time, how quickly you "catch on", and overall collaboration with the team.  % utilization is normally only looked at from a management standpoint, to ensure we have the right workload coming in and for future resource lookaheads.

    It's possible that you may have simply misunderstood your previous company's onboarding and training practices, and how performance actually gets measured.  

    As a Design Engineering Manager, I find it unrealistic/borderline unethical to bill out at a high % for a brand new employee.  No matter how great that employee is, there is always a training period/learning curve that should be accounted for in the billable percentages.  Each company is a little different in determining what % and what length of time is reasonable.  But regardless of that, we never bill for training activities, rework, or shadowing/career development.

    I would also assume that you were paid a set salary (as you said 100% baseline) and paid that same amount, regardless of the % you were being "billed out".

    On a different note, I've been a woman in the civil engineering industry for about 15 years now.  Since that time, not only are more and more women entering the industry, but those women are doing very well.  There have been wonderful advancements in training, mentoring, and raising awareness.  At my company, we have women's programs at both the corporate and local levels - doing everything from K-12 outreach, college events and recruiting, and within our company for both career development and teambuilding.  What I've seen in the past 5 years has been even faster and further progress, and a lot of women are currently in key decision making and operation roles throughout our company.  I am witnessing this at many other companies as well.

    Bottom line is that - yes, women and diversity is a somewhat "new" topic in the civil engineering industry and is still a challenge in many workplaces.  But it's gaining a lot of momentum and there are a lot of awesome programs out there, doing great things.  A few examples are below.  These are mainly construction focused, since that is the industry I am currently in, however there are likely more out there.
    - Women's Builder's Council
    - Federation of Women Contractors
    - Women in Transportation
    - Professional Women in Construction
    - Women Construction Owners & Executives
    - National Association of Women in Construction
    - Society of Women Engineers (college level)
    - Tools & Tiaras (K-12 outreach)

    I would encourage you to look into these, even if they aren't specific to your field, look for any others, and get involved.  If your company does not yet have a women and diversity initiative, then talk to HR and volunteer to start it up.  All companies love leaders, problem solvers, and folks who get things done.  "Results" is the universal language in all businesses, and if you can be someone who will drive results, then you will have a lot of great years ahead.

    Wish you all the best!

    Angela Hunter P.E., M.ASCE
    Teaneck NJ

  • 5.  RE: Employee/Employer Discrimination Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

    Posted 03-22-2021 10:28 AM

    I think these examples don't capture the interpersonal exchanges between person to person that hurts employee performance and removes responsibility from people in leadership roles.

    I appreciate your attempt to shed some light on this situation, Ms. Hunter and for your words of encouragement. 

    Oanh Le EIT, A.M.ASCE (She/Her)
    Rochdale, MA

  • 6.  RE: Employee/Employer Discrimination Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

    Posted 03-22-2021 10:29 AM
    Hi Ms. Hunter,  I appreciate your response.

    Oanh Le EIT, A.M.ASCE (She/Her)
    Rochdale, MA

  • 7.  RE: Employee/Employer Discrimination Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

    Posted 03-22-2021 01:56 PM
    Completely understand where you're coming from. Some team & work environments that I've been in have been completely toxic and not equitable. Rude & snarky remarks, trying to throw their 20 + years of experience in my face because I approach something completely different than what they deem as "typical", even environments where they felt making racist jokes was ok.  These experiences are the reasons why retention among women & POC in this industry is not acceptable. Stay encouraged.

    Jay Garth P.E.
    Structural Engineer I
    Progressive AE

    EWB: An Engineering Culture Shift
    Grand Rapids, MI

  • 8.  RE: Employee/Employer Discrimination Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

    Posted 03-22-2021 02:34 PM
    Edited by Oanh Le 04-15-2021 04:26 PM
    It was the worst experience ever. They treated me completely different. I mean, submit work plan once every two weeks was the standard for all their employees, and they had me doing this everyday for every hour of the day. They already made me out to be different.

    Oanh Le, A.M.ASCE (She/Her)
    Rochdale, MA

  • 9.  RE: Employee/Employer Discrimination Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace

    Posted 04-14-2021 04:19 PM

    Dear Oanh,

    Good to see you are back, sharing your thoughts and opinions.

    My response to your reported situation(s) follows.

    First, I wish to acknowledge the very challenging situations you faced and would add such happen to men as well. .  .  .  .when not prepared.

    Next, I offer below some thoughts for your evaluation that will address not only the situation you reported but going forward with your life, strategies, and tactics for you to stylize to your own Life By Design™.

    • Background

    Back around the late 1980s, I was out of work and decided to start my own Quality Management consulting practice to, mainly, design & construction professionals. Now, not about the engineering and technical stuff but instead the people, process and leadership parts. Up to this point I had NEVER had my own professional business. While confident I had knowledge of, and access to what my potential clients needed to know to do good work, have fun, and make money[1], still, I had never done that.

     Then I "Stumbled" across the book by Napoleon Hill, "Think and Grow Rich."

     I formed my very first "Mastermind Group" in Jacksonville, FL., had initially 7 members locally , and 5 across the USA and Canada for total of 12 professionals from different fields with quite different perspectives. For the first 3 months we meet face-to-face monthly, and with telephone conferences, then on an as-needed basis.

     I will uncharacteristically stop "Talking at you."

    Review the attachments to glean and personalize what makes sense to you.

     Whenever you may wish to dig deeper about this collaborative, non-competitive Life By Design™ process,  just ask.

    Stay Healthy!



                                             "Do or do not. There is no try."  -Yoda



    [1] These 3 goals were Clair Hill's as he shaped the early version of CH2M Hill.

    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880