Many of our core values here at Danella center around the simple but essential goal of treating all of our employees with respect and dignity. Helping each and every employee reach their potential is rooted in this goal, as is our commitment to conducting business with the utmost integrity and professionalism. In this blogging series, we’ve been inspecting and addressing the gender divide that exists in our industry. In order to bridge that gender divide, pursue the goal of hiring and retaining more women, and bring our company one step closer to our ideals and core values, we believe that organizational culture shifts must happen. To examine this process more closely and gain some clarity on actionable steps organizations can take to facilitate culture shifts, we spoke with Joseph Spause.
Spause wears many hats here at Danella, as the Vice President of Danella Construction he oversees, both PA and NJ operations, as well as the national Danella Storm Restoration operations. These roles demand high involvement in the hiring process and in day-to-day communication with employees. He acknowledges that change is never easy but takes pride in the steps Danella has taken as an organization to promote gender equality and support employees and their families. He notes, “We’re always looking for what the challenges are, but we’re not afraid to tackle the hard things in life. It’s what’s best for the business, the employees, and their families.”
To this end, Spause credits Jim Danella himself and his commitment to pursuing culture shift through actively recruiting and hiring women. This emphasis on bringing more women to the table is an essential step toward creating an environment that values diverse perspectives and empowers women to be successful in a male-dominated field.
But recruiting and hiring alone are not the solution. Spause speaks to the importance of actively maintaining open lines of communication with all employees but making an extra effort to reach out to female employees about their daily experiences on the job to ensure that there are no barriers in place to limit their potential. Building a supportive, trusting culture, is an important step towards continuing to make Danella a place where female employees can thrive.
Changing mindsets play a large role in shifting culture, and shifts in mindset have to begin with individuals in leadership roles. Spause speaks to the entrepreneurial spirit that he seeks to honor in all employees, noting that “I value drive–I’m a big supporter of people who have initiative. If you want to do a good job, I want to put you in a position where you can do a good job.” This translates into offering female employees the opportunity to train in more specialized skills and fostering their success in an industry that is heavily male-dominated.
Perhaps the most impactful step that Danella is taking to facilitate cultural shifts is to do the difficult work of talking about the gender divide. Upper management prioritizes these conversations at their meetings, ensuring that the company’s core values exist in real time, not just in theory. Spause makes it clear that he doesn’t shy away from this challenge: “We don’t come to work to do the easy stuff. We’re here to support diversity and growth. You tackle challenges as a group, not alone.”
Research and best practices support many of Danella’s steps toward bringing better opportunities to all employees. Recruiting and hiring traditionally underrepresented groups isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the right thing for the company. Kathy Krumpe, women’s leadership advocate and COO of Future State, an organization that partners with businesses to help transform culture and practices, explains: “To truly lead inclusively means working in new ways and questioning previous best practices. Take recruiting: It’s moving away from selecting new hires based on credentials and pedigree to focus on interviewing and hiring for talent that fits with the culture and brings the right emotional intelligence, creative thinking and problem-solving abilities to bear. This creates a more level playing field and inherently builds a more diverse, talented, and innovative team.”
Open lines of communication at every level do more than making women feel safe and supported. Danella is making critical efforts to maintain active dialogue in the workplace, about the workplace. Dr. Pragya Agarwal, an expert on unconscious bias and organizational inclusivity, explains “It has also been shown that women tend to face more workplace bullying and undergo much more stress and anxiety in the workplace. Actively encouraging an open dialogue and discussion in the workplace… will support more women be employed and retained.”
We don’t have all of the answers, but by taking these small steps forward, we hope to continue to make a big impact on our organization’s inclusive culture and to continue bridging the gender divide in the construction industry.
This post is one in a series focused on women in construction. To join in this important conversation, visit our Facebook page.