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Women supporting women
Women Supporting Women in the Built Environment – and Beyond
Posted By Christine Cube

We’ve all got unconscious biases.

Some companies do better to keep it in check.

Amazon Web Services takes it to a new level: Before every interview, AWS managers and directors must watch a 30-minute unconscious bias video to prep prior to meeting prospective candidates.

“It’s amazing how many little biases you have,” said Sandra Benson, Worldwide Head of Engineering, Construction and Real Estate with Amazon Web Services. “This helps your head get in the space [of interviewing].”

Benson recently spoke with a group of leaders during a Women Executives in Building virtual meeting. She led a talk with Nancy Novak, Chief Innovation Officer of Compass Datacenters, about advancing women to achieve parity in leadership in the building industry.

Benson said AWS takes unconscious bias training very seriously. She said: “You don’t get to train or interview anyone until you go through this.”

Women in Leadership Isn’t a Numbers Game – It’s About Impact

Dozens of female leaders in the building industry logged on for the most recent WEB meeting.

Benson grew up in the south. Her family encouraged her to move in the direction of liberal arts; she chose engineering.

As a professional, Benson said she’s seen many instances of men keeping women from advancing in the workplace. But she’s also seen women do this, too.

Asked what she would say to her younger self about how to conduct business, Benson said her answer likely would be viewed as controversial.

“I would tell my younger self to be softer,” Benson said, with regard to how she chose to advance in her career. “I was young, and I felt like everyone was against me. I almost felt like I had to push it too hard.”

Many leaders on the call understood this.

Andrea Rutledge, President & CEO of the Construction Management Association of America, recognized that she’s caught herself being competitive with other women.

“You need to look in the mirror and see what’s happening,” Rutledge said. “I put the lid on that. It was my job to say this isn’t a contest.”

Women Executives in Building