Bauer's Inclusive Leadership Initiative, Women in Leadership Course Creating Opportunities for More Diverse Environments
THROUGH BAUER’S WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP EXECUTIVE EDUCATION COURSE, PAGE’S MULTIDISCIPLINARY EMPLOYEES HAVE BEEN ABLE TO CULTIVATE A MORE INCLUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT.
Greater diversity in the workforce results in greater profitability and value creation. It is no wonder that organizations aim to correct inequities in workplace compensation and advancement and provide support to more emerging women leaders in work environments.
The Inclusive Leadership Initiative at Bauer College cultivates research-based solutions to help organizations adopt those strategies and generate a leadership culture and policies that benefit employees, while also contributing to the bottom line.
Bauer’s two-day Women in Leadership class is a case in point: The class sparked profound change for emerging women leaders of the multidisciplinary design firm Page, illustrating the potential for transformative collaboration between business and academia and Bauer’s commitment to offering programs that bolster community ties and promote innovation.
Architecture, like many fields, struggles to retain its female employees for the duration of their careers. According to a recent American Institute of Architecture (AIA) survey, women and people of color are underrepresented in the field of architecture and steps need to be taken to recruit, grow and retain this talent.
A cohort of nine Page employees originally attended a Women in Leadership class in January 2017, offered through the Executive Education department at Bauer.
This class was catalytic for me.
SENIOR ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF BUILDING SCIENCES
Associate Dean for Research Vanessa Patrick is lead faculty for the two-day course that encourages self-examination and the development of an action plan for enhancing leadership skills in the workplace.
Luisina Basilico, an architect and principal at Page, said approximately 22 female employees from the firm have now attended Bauer’s Women in Leadership class and continue to meet collectively to encourage and support women at the firm.
“The class is not a short-term fix for your professional life,” Basilico said. “What you come away with is knowledge about things you can do both personally and professionally, and that both sides have to work together to help you move forward and meet your goals.”
Basilico and Senior Associate and Director of Building Sciences Jill Kurtz were among the first group of employees from Page to attend the class.
A key takeaway, Kurtz said, was realizing she needed to be less reticent about stepping up in areas of professional strength. Hearing other women’s stories was also powerful, Kurtz said.
“The thing that was different about this class for me was that the focus was on not just understanding my own strengths and weaknesses, but understanding how to proceed. It was catalytic for me,” she said.
The company’s decision to send a group to the class maximized its impact. Women from different departments at Page who didn’t know each other forged connections and organized a bi-monthly meeting to support emerging women leaders and share concepts learned in the Bauer class.
While changes in culture don’t happen overnight, there have been some important changes at Page since the first cohort attended. Kurtz notes that an initial survey of women at Page’s Houston office done shortly after the first cohort attended class identified 17 women who were viewed as leaders firm-wide.
In a survey this year, female employees identified 28 women, Kurtz said. The firm’s female leaders are now more visible or they are stepping into their leadership potential, she said.
“I think people feel that they’re extending their circle and they know people they can go to for guidance.” In addition, Page’s first female senior board member was appointed recently, and Patrick and Page employees teamed up to present information about the impact that the Women in Leadership Development class had on Page at the annual Texas Society of Architects annual meeting, which generated interest from women at other Texas firms.
Patrick believes Women in Leadership, offered twice annually, is a powerful catalyst for creating healthier, more innovative workplaces in Houston.
“We have created a very unique program that allows people to come in and examine not only where they’re at as managers, but encourages them to develop the self-knowledge to leverage their strengths as whole individuals to lead others and advance their own careers,” Patrick said.
More information about the classes, held annually in January and August, can be found at bauer.uh.edu/exec.