In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, and this year’s theme, #BeBoldForChange, we are featuring stories from our leaders and employees throughout the month of March, describing their own bold moments in relation to workplace equality and honoring diversity and inclusion.
My parents raised me to be whoever I wanted to be, with no limits. And when I decided to pursue a degree in engineering, it wasn’t an unusual choice. Only when I started my professional career did I realize women are still in the minority in the construction industry, especially in leadership roles, and there is work to be done to change the status quo. I see the gender imbalance in the industry as a challenge, and as an opportunity.
My 2017 #BeBoldForChange pledge is to rethink the standards of leadership. Men have thus far dictated those standards, but what if we create new standards that reflect women’s strengths and a variety of management styles?
What motivates me to #BeBoldforChange is the thought that my actions can inspire others, just as others’ actions inspire me. Every time I raise my voice to share my opinion in an important meeting, other women may be motivated to do the same. Studies¹ have shown that even in school, women find it more difficult to raise their hands and speak up. My hope is that my example will encourage more women to contribute to the conversation. We should not wait to be invited to the club or rely on quotas; we must be bold enough to propose ourselves as leaders.
For example, when I heard that the New York Building Congress was going to launch a Young Professionals Committee this spring, I immediately asked to join, and as a result, I was nominated co-chair of the committee, which will be a big responsibility. A common theme of my professional experience has always been to say yes to challenges and to new opportunities, and also to create my own opportunities.
I worked on two major projects where I created my own role by determining what the projects and the company needed at that particular time. And I advise my deputy project managers to do the same, to go beyond their current roles and explore everything that interests them.
Diversity in the workplace is very important to me. To deliver mega-projects, AECOM needs teams with the most diverse backgrounds, competencies and experiences; people who are trained to combine their skills to deliver solutions that otherwise would not be possible. I learned this lesson from my manager, Dan Sawh. So, when he asked me to co-lead a team of deputy project managers, I knew the core values I wanted to pass on.
Today, our team is a great example of a dynamic and diverse workplace; currently, we have 20 people from seven different countries, multiple fields of work (including engineering, planning and finance), and many levels of experience. Each person on the team brings skills that are a consequence of a unique life journey and benefit everyone else, and I am proud to co-lead them and continue our adventure of delivering a better world.
Marilisa Stigliano is a project controls manager in New York Metro region. She joined AECOM as a risk analyst three years ago, after earning a master’s degree in structural engineering and construction management. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently named Marilisa as one of the 2017 New Faces of Civil Engineering, and she will serve as co-chair of the New York Building Congress Young Committee.