| AWWA 2017 Diversity Award winner: Kimley-Horn
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AWWA 2017 Diversity Award winner: Kimley-Horn

The Diversity and Member Inclusion Committee will award its 2017 Annual Diversity Award to Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. at ACE17.  The award will be presented at the Opening General Session on Monday, June 12 at ACE in Philadelphia, PA.  Accepting the award for Kimley-Horn and Associates will be Jennifer Tatum, Project Representative, from their Fort Worth, Texas office.

In 2009, the Kimley-Horn Board of Directors approved the formation of the Women’s Leadership Group (WLG).  This group consists of 10-12 senior women in practice throughout each region in the firm.  The focus of this group is to foster and support women in practice at Kimley-Horn and act as a liaison with upper management.  

A study of trends in retention over a four-year period showed that retention rates for men exceed retention rates for women.  This trend was especially telling for women with 4-7 years of experience.  The group recognized that the dynamics of the business world were changing. An increasing number of top engineering graduates are women, and an increasing number of their clients are women. Women in the client organizations were increasingly in decision-making roles, including consultant selection. However, like other firms in the industry, a disproportionate percentage of Kimley-Horn practice builders and leadership teams were male.  

For Kimley-Horn to grow in the face of these changing demographics, they needed to increase the number of senior women in significant practice roles. Yet at all levels of practice, they retain women at a lower rate than they retain men. They called this a retention gap. Over the years, this retention gap contributes to an imbalance at senior levels.

With this information in mind, Kimley-Horn hosted a 3-day planning workshop in 2014 to discuss what the firm could do to help reverse the retention gap between men and women. Their Lift (Lasting Impact for Tomorrow) initiative addresses the needs of women and the firm to help break this cycle and reduce the retention gap. Their focus was to increase the ranks of females leading significant practices by recruiting, developing, and retaining women.

Several employee-led committees met to evaluate Kimley-Horn's retention gap, looking at scheduling and maternity leave processes; ownership and spouse integration; pregnancy and childcare resources; and career development. These committees were comprised of the firm's senior leadership and women in practice. 

After months of planning, the Lift initiative was introduced to employees by the president and chairman at the firm's regional kickoff meetings. These presentations explained the business case for Lift and how achieving greater representation of women at various leadership levels would help the entire firm build better relationships, achieve a broader base of potential client interaction, and learn from differing perspectives.

The chairman followed the kickoff meetings with a firm wide email about Lift and what to expect from it. This email included a link to a Lift page on their intranet, which housed resources on personal career development, work-life integration, motherhood, and networking. The president and director of HR spent the first year of Lift traveling to each of their 70+ offices to host "brown bag" training and Q&A sessions. The presentations addressed common questions from employees: Why now? What's in it for me? Are we changing our culture of recognition? Is this about quotas? How will we measure progress?

For Lift to be successful, employees had to understand why the initiative was introduced, and how they would be affected (direct benefit; benefit by association; or indirect benefit). Employees needed to realize this was a business-based decision, not one made for social reasons. 

Strong support from senior leadership was another important factor to success. They reinforced that their culture of excellence is a priority—and that increasing diversity, both gender and otherwise, is key to maintaining that excellence. 

To further ensure the program's success, leadership continued to explain that their actions were designed around closing the retention gap and addressing the issues raised by women in the firm. Through the brown bag presentations, they made it clear that Lift had nothing to do with quotas; that performance would continue to be judged the same way, regardless of an individual's gender.

The initial employees who recommended Lift to the management committee were an important part of the program's research and development. Senior leadership and HR had a strong role in its introduction and implementation. Their Women's Leadership Group continues to act as diversity "boots on the ground," supporting Lift on a localized level.

The overarching goal of Lift is to increase the number of female practice builders with large practices by recruiting, developing, and retaining women. They recruited women by: creating college-specific Lift materials; creating senior-specific Lift materials; and stimulating conversation with targeted recruits. 

They developed women by: hosting a special training session for women shareholders; holding Career Development Workshops for emerging leaders; and adding a "Gender Diversity in the Workplace" session to our introductory training courses. They retained women by: supporting schedule flexibility; providing mentorship and networking opportunities and partnering with Bright Horizons to offer back-up childcare. 

In Lift's first year, the following areas have increased at Kimley-Horn, more female college hires, more women with large-scale practices, more female representation on the board of directors and management committee. The initiative has also garnered positive feedback from both female and male employees.

The AWWA Diversity and Member Inclusion Committee would like to congratulate Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. for their Lift program and for being selected for this year’s AWWA Diversity Award. To learn more about the Lift initiative please join us at ACE17 where Jennifer Tatum will discuss this program on Tuesday, June 13 at 1:30 in room 203 A-B.