Participating in the women’s mastermind program were, in back, from the left, Jen Greenawalt (organizer and Women@TT leader), Claudia Bruder, Michelle Olender, Laurie Lindow, Aoife Quinn (organizer), Helen Hebert, Natalie Wolfram, Alloy Kemp, Rupa Patel, Tara Toren-Rudisill, Ruchika Kaur, Lisa Chong, middle row, Abena Darden, Aine Brazil (facilitator), Lynne Bregman, front, Christina Chu-Garcia, Karen Grossett, Linda Warren (organizer), Carole Rusch, Michelle Dionisio, Peggy Van Eepoel (facilitator), Angela Heinze, Hi Sun Choi (facilitator). Photo Lynne Bregman, Thornton Tomasetti.
– By Linda Warren, director of learning
Thornton Tomasetti knows that inclusive and diverse organizations outperform their industry peers. Working toward inclusion and diversity goals, and to support our pipeline of future female leaders, women with significant responsibilities as engineering and architectural associates gathered in early November for a one-day mastermind retreat. Held in Denver, Colorado, the event was hosted by Women@TT, a firm-wide group created to educate, support and elevate women. The session was designed to help participants explore career challenges, opportunities for growth and personal strengths with their peers.
Seventeen women from our U.S. offices participated in the program, which was facilitated by Vice Chairman Aine Brazil and Senior Principals Hi Sun Choi and Peggy Van Eepoel. While the three senior leaders provided valuable advice learned from their professional experiences, the associates recognized the importance of supporting one another as their careers develop. They found common ground through the sharing of ideas, knowledge and personal observations on how to achieve success in the architecture, engineering and construction industry while maintaining a work-life balance. With retreat participants coming from different cities across the U.S., face-to-face meetings aren’t always possible to keep the dialog going. An intranet space was created to share information and to coordinate future career forums and activities such as book groups.
The mastermind gathering was held in an informal setting to encourage open communication. Sessions were held in both large and small groups.
A segment of the discussion focused on the skills necessary for building successful careers. A few of the traits and characteristics our senior leaders found helpful in their own professional journeys include decisiveness, the ability to view a situation from multiple perspectives, good negotiating skills and developing a reputation as a trusted partner. Our developing leaders already possess several qualities the group recognized as important at the mid-career level. Among these are the ability to build strong relationships with clients and project partners, developing effective teams, good communications skills, innovative thinking, resourcefulness and adaptability.
The mastermind gathering was insightful, and we are using what we learned to guide our efforts to help emerging leaders develop skills required for increasing levels of responsibility. Women associates will be supporting one another in new ways, and the firm will offer targeted professional development initiatives to foster their growth through formal training, knowledge sharing, mentoring and coaching.
We will be developing training and career support programs on topics such as effective leadership in a male-dominated profession, business development, how to approach difficult conversations, active listening and coaching. In addition, we will continue to solicit input on flexible work options to support work/life balance. We expect the long-term result will be more inclusive and diverse leadership at the highest levels within Thornton Tomasetti.
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