Founded by Zweig Group in 2019, ElevateHER® is about the future of the AEC industry. Each year, a cohort of up to 40 AEC professionals from all over the country–and org Charts–join forces to develop and disseminate actionable plans that aim to solve the recruitment and retention crisis in the industry via the lenses of diversity, equity, and inclusion. These actionable plans are made available to the entire AEC community and are ready for turn-key implementation.
ElevateHER® was founded by Zweig Group’s managing principal and director of advisory services Jamie Claire Kiser. Although no one in 2019 could have fully predicted how turbulent the last few years have been, Kiser recognized the need for a new platform within the AEC industry–one that harnesses the power of diversity, equity, and inclusion to create real, tenable solutions to a better future for the AEC industry.
Kiser developed the first concept for ElevateHER® when most people would be sleeping–on a midweek 2 am flight. Over the course of that three-hour flight she found herself contemplating the solution to workforce inconsistencies in the AEC industry–identifying pain points and rigorously planning for the solution to the issue at hand. With this email, the concept for ElevateHER® was born.
After proposing the concept to her colleagues, the team then began to research from Zweig Group’s own data. The results were crushing. 100 percent of women principals in the AEC industry had considered leaving compared to 49 percent for men. Furthermore, the data revealed that zero women were given any portion of their ownership for free, compared to men who responded “yes” to the same question 33 percent of the time.
Consistently, the number one challenge identified by principals of Zweig Group’s Hot Firms was recruitment and retention. And, when it comes to recruitment and retention, the data once again told a similar story. Women are entering engineering and architecture programs at higher rates than ever, but they aren’t staying. To compound this, the women who are staying and growing into leadership roles have seriously considered leaving the AEC industry altogether.
In light of the ongoing labor shortage in the AEC industry, these issues were not only about equality, but also about practicality. The AEC industry cannot afford to let the issues of gender roles and inequity stand in the way of appealing to the best and brightest minds. ElevateHER® was founded based on the real experience of women in the AEC industry and the consensus was clear: women need to feel that they can have a meaningful career as engineers or designers or surveyors or CAD technicians.
How it works
Potential new cohort members are asked to apply for the ElevateHER® program throughout the year. The new ElevateHER® cohort is announced at the start of the new year and the new members are invited to join current cohort members at the Winter/Spring ElevateHER® Symposium. The 2023 ElevateHER® Symposium & Cohort Kickoff Retreat is being held in Dallas, Texas on February 15th through the 17th.
At this event, cohort members will work together–guided and encouraged by advisors–engaging in workshops, learning about past ElevateHER® projects, participating in panel discussions, and hearing from keynote speakers. These critical discussions and networking activities will serve as the catalyst for our 2023 ElevateHER® projects.
The goal of ElevateHER® is to work together to find a way forward–not only assessing and acknowledging the troubled waters around us, but building bridges to a better future. One of the foundational components of the ElevateHER® program is the ability to create actionable plans. Within the ElevateHER® cohort, smaller teams are formed with the concrete goal of improving the recruitment and retention of women in the AEC industry. Cohort members who joined ElevateHER® in previous years return as advisors to help the new cohort create their plans. These teams continue to check in monthly and meet at the ElevateHER® Mid Year Summit in June. These projects are also then presented at Zweig Group’s annual ElevateAEC conference.