#IWD, ED&I, Equity Diversity & Inclusion, International Women's Day, InvestInWomen, IWD2024, Women's History Month

This year, for International Women’s Day on March 8, we are following the United Nations’ theme of ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate progress’, which is based on the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals and is in alignment with our Sustainable Legacies strategy.

Follow our IWD 2024 blog series to hear from our leaders around the world about initiatives and programs geared towards investing in women at AECOM.

Engage in this year’s conversations on LinkedIn and X (Twitter).

In addition to being the Risk Management Director and Vice President for AECOM’s U.S. West region, Wendy Lau serves on our Global and Americas ED&I steering committees, is a strategic partner for our Global Well-Being program, a global mental health ally, and the president of the Women’s Leadership Alliance, the women’s employee resource group for our Americas region. In this blog, Wendy highlights WLA’s triumphs over the past year and the path ahead to further empower our women leaders and invest in communities where everyone thrives.

Women’s Leadership Alliance (WLA) is an employee resource group for our employees in the Americas region (U.S. East, U.S. West and Canada) and Construction Management business and is focused on supporting our women professionals to achieve their leadership potential through networking and skills development.

As the WLA gets ready for arguably one of our busiest times of the year — International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month — I’m taking a moment to breathe and celebrate all the wins from the past year, big and small.

As many of us can attest, it can be daunting to plan, organize, and execute a huge project or series of projects. Sometimes, you get lost in the weeds and start stressing out over everything — every little thing. Other times, you want to play ostrich, find a nice hole to stick your head into, and hope for the best. Still other times, you just feel overwhelmed — with all of it — and wish that someone else would just take the wheel.

It’s in those moments that I remind myself to be present, to acknowledge the triumphs and the lessons learned, and to appreciate all the things that beautifully came together to get us here — to this particular time, to this unique place, to this previously unfathomable opportunity. And after I do that — I am grateful. I am humbled by what we have achieved, and what we can continue to achieve, when we work together.

I think collaboration is an integral part of the building blocks to success. It’s taking what has worked before, expanding on it, and growing it to evolve into something even better. It’s being cognizant of the gift of people’s time, energy and commitment and not wasting those precious resources.

If you ask my vice president, Caitlin Cavanagh, what my most used phrase is, she’ll say it’s “Let’s not reinvent the wheel.”

She’s not wrong. I use this phrase a lot.

So why does that matter? It matters because it’s in the spirit of collaboration, best practices, and thinking outside of the box, that the WLA has yet again, had another amazing year. In FY23, we partnered — a lot. We embraced the intersectionality of our identities and said, “with whom can we collaborate?” “Who can we bring into this discussion?”  But it wasn’t just looking at where identities merged, it was a conscious effort to de-silo equity, diversity and inclusion and push for a leveling up. “What department or leader can we engage to demonstrate the importance and applicability of ED&I to all facets of our work and life?” “How do we incorporate this into our day-to-day?”

A year of community and allyship

In FY23, the WLA partnered with our talent acquisition team to field a team of amazing women engineers, designers and architects at the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) conference and career fair that took place in October in Los Angeles. While the event itself occurred in the first quarter of FY24, much blood, sweat and tears were expended in the planning and organizing process at the end of FY23. Shout out to our awesome boots on the ground women at SWE: Caitlin Cavanagh, Holly Holbrook, Ginger L’Heureux, May Pang, Carrie Robbins, Lucy Terza and Victoria Watson; our social media content gurus: Shannon Hoff and Summer Baruth; and our skilled talent acquisition people: Matthew Petties, Natalie Fisher and Brittany Portalski. And we would be remiss if we didn’t call out our business lines and departments that supported this team’s attendance and participation at this very important diversity career fair, so a big thank you to our Buildings + Places, Environment, Federal, AECOM Hunt (Construction Management), Transportation, and Water businesses. This remarkable collaboration not only energized our employees by reminding them that they work with really cool people on really cool projects, but also allowed people to share their stories and experiences with the next generation of STEM leaders and encourage them to dream big and come work with us!

Throughout the year, WLA also hosted, planned, sponsored, and executed a number of events, including but not limited to, a panel on Male Allyship; a discussion with phenomenal AECOM women leaders sharing their career journeys and words of advice; an open benefits forum with AECOM’s benefits team; multiple ED&I-focused Book + Club events with other ERGs; our second annual virtual networking mixer; a collaboration with our Pride ERG for a moving Trans Day of Visibility event; and a three-part Summer Series on giving effective presentations.

More on the horizon

So, what’s next? For a bunch of forward-thinkers, movers and shakers like the WLA, we’ve got big plans! At the end of the fourth quarter of FY23, we started planning  for a three-month long collaboration — from March 2024 to May 2024 — with our global Water business line, Surge for Water (a women-led global nonprofit dedicated to solving the global water and sanitation crisis), and our other ERGs to support water projects in Uganda and Indonesia, where millions of people lack basic water services. As we all need water to survive and thrive, centering our efforts on water and our role in designing and building infrastructure that provides clean water for all, is a way to leverage the ERGs as an important business asset that directly impacts and affects delivering a better world. As my WLA secretary, Lu Chen, so aptly put it: “Access to clean water is fundamental for human health, both mentally and physically. Improved water access positively impacts health outcomes, reduces poverty, and fosters environmental sustainability, all crucial components of global well-being.” With the support of our other ERGs as well as all our coworkers throughout AECOM, we are looking forward to an educational, fun, and inspiring three months!

I could go on and on, in vivid detail, about all the things that the WLA has done and what else is on the horizon, but we’d be here a long while.   These efforts help us shape the culture of our workplace to be one where everyone feels like they belong and where we are all collaborating and sharing and lifting each other up. Throughout this blog, there have been multiple shout outs — trust me, there are so many more! That was intentional. It demonstrates just how much the WLA purposefully calls people in and encourages them to lead positive change within and outside the organization. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel. We want to make it better.

Originally published Mar 7, 2024

Author: Wendy Lau