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Women in AECOMs industry want to see role models reflecting them

Women in AECOM's industry want to see role models reflecting them

 June 20, 2022

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Committed to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) within its organization and industry, AECOM is cultivating a work environment that is safe and respectful, where everyone is empowered to bring their unique talents, backgrounds and expertise to bear on some of the world’s most complex challenges.

AECOM knows that women who join its industry want to see role models who look like them. 

Hear from some AECOM women who champion diversity in the workplace. 

Meet AECOM Rail, Bridges & Structures Director for UK & Ireland, Susan Evans

As a senior leader in a male dominated sector, Susan Evans [pictured above] champions gender diversity. "I want to be a role model for women and show them the exciting opportunities for career progression. Women who join our sector at the early stages of their careers want to see role models who look like them," she explains.

"Not having enough women in senior positions risks discouraging talent that we really need to keep. An important part of my work is to support women in their career development, both at AECOM and through my role as vice-chair of the London region of Women in Rail. We arrange a variety of events for women working in the rail sector, including networking, coaching and development sessions."

Robust career development 

Susan recently led the adoption of robust career development and succession planning throughout the business to promote greater transparency and identification of opportunities for everyone.

"The process includes career development panels of experienced staff with an audience of junior colleagues. They are an open forum for attendees to ask any questions they want about their careers. I think flexibility is key to enabling women — and other genders — to meet their full potential at work," says Susan.  

"I don’t know anyone who isn’t juggling a range of responsibilities these days, be that caring responsibilities, extra study, training for a special sporting event or coping with mental health. There are a wide range of scenarios where AECOM's Freedom to Grow philosophy can enable people to do their best for their clients and their team without feeling they must compromise other things that are important to them."

Meet AECOM Hunt Vice President, Corissa Smith

AECOM Corissa Smith

Corissa Smith has gone from being the only woman in the room during construction meetings to mentoring women breaking into a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Corissa, a Vice President with AECOM Hunt in Phoenix, has been with the firm for close to 24 years. Over that time, she has worked on a combined 10 big league and college stadium projects and convention center renovations. She’s now involved in Las Vegas Convention Center Phase Three, a $435 million project slated for completion in 2026. 

AECOM Las Vegas Convention Centre

Corissa has come a long way since her first project, the Seattle Mariners’ stadium now called T-Mobile Park. She grew up in Washington state and graduated from the University of Washington with an architecture degree in 1996. A friend got a job with the old Hunt Construction Group and Corissa followed her down that path, getting an internship on the Major League Baseball project.

“It was an amazing opportunity,” Corissa said. “The thinking was, if I’m ever going to be any good as an architect, I ought to know how to build a building, how it is all put together.”

Working her way up from project manager to director

From that came several more opportunities and Corissa was hooked on the construction aspect of facility development and on her way to becoming a key player for one of the nation’s biggest builders of public assembly facilities.

Hunt officials steered her to Phoenix, where she worked on the Arizona Cardinals’ NFL stadium. The 63,400-seat venue, now called State Farm Stadium, opened in 2006 in the suburb of Glendale. It stood out for its cutting-edge design and the construction process.

Corissa was in charge of the roof and the field. Both were retractable components and innovative in U.S. sports. “The way that we built and lifted the roof was kind of the predecessor for SoFi Stadium in the way the roof trusses were erected,” she said. “Back then, it was the biggest roof lift in North American history, 5,400 tons at one time.”

She said: “The retractable field had never been done before in the U.S. The retractable roof is more like a moon roof on a car, the first to operate on an inclined slope. It travels up and down rather than sideways. It was a transformative project for me from a career perspective.”

For about eight years, Corissa worked on more convention center expansions in Phoenix, San Antonio, San Jose and Seattle. Along the way, she worked her way up from project manager to director of pre-construction and client services before being promoted to vice president in 2016.

Still, as someone who came from the architecture world to the “dark side” of development, as Corissa says with a laugh, she always felt like she had to play catch-up with construction knowledge and expertise. Plus, being a woman in construction didn’t make things any easier for her.

“It took me a while to figure out that no matter how hard I tried, I was never going to know it all,” she said. “Initially, I let anything that happened kind of roll off my back in terms of lack of tolerance. I had to work my way into earning everybody’s respect, and that’s what I did. For better or worse, I was just trying to blend in with the team and figure out how to do my job.”

Championing the role of women in construction

Further into her career, Corissa realized that diversity was something that should be celebrated and honored for bringing people from different backgrounds to the construction site, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

At that point, Corissa began to champion the role of women in construction and serve as a mentor to others in the field. “There were never really a lot of women around me or above me in positions to look up to,” she said. “My mentors were mostly men. I realized there was a big gap and felt I had something to share.”

Corissa got involved in the Women in Construction conference, an annual event that rotates between Arizona and California. For the event, she organizes separate activities for a group of female AECOM Hunt employees from across the country to socialize, have dinner and just get to know each other.

“It all started when somebody called me to be on a panel,” Corissa said. “I thought why? Then I went to one event and figured out it was important, not just for women to go but for men to attend because they can learn a heck of a lot.”

For Corissa, it’s evolved into an entire curriculum for AECOM Hunt officials built around the conference. In addition, she’s involved in speaking engagements with students at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Join AECOM and become a female role model 

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Inspired to become a female role model in engineering?

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