Founded by the Zweig Group’s Jamie Claire Kiser, ElevateHER is a movement with the mission to study and propose solutions to workplace inconsistencies that women experience in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry. As stated, “By serving as an advisor and a hub of information and resources, our movement hopes to bring us together to elevate the industry. We believe that with inclusion and strategic steps, we can work together to advance the future of firms across the United States because we believe that diversity brings about positive change. ElevateHER is an initiative to better the future of the AEC Industry. It is a commitment to embrace, promote, and ensure equal opportunities for everyone in the AEC industry regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity” (Zweig Group).
Kim Smith, the first-ever female partner at VMDO Architects, is a 2022 ElevateHER cohort member and has helped the initiative identify new and better ways to support women in the AEC industry. Through her decades of service and commitment to architecture and design, Kim is a seasoned professional with the skills and wisdom to help her ElevateHER cohort think critically about how firms can create a holistic approach to staff development for all employees. She applied and was accepted for the 2022 cohort and is already making an impact through her thoughtful and innovative ideas. Inspired by recent design work in student well-being centers on university campuses and her own interest in holistic wellness, Kim offered that a focus on wellness, not culture, could prove to be a valuable recruitment and retention asset. A team of nine others joined this discussion, built a team, and coalesced around the theme "Well Engaged." Team Well Engaged and the four other teams that make up the 2022 cohort will present at the September 14th, 2022 ElevateHER Symposium.
Team Well Engaged is studying why firms should invest in the holistic wellness of their employees and how this investment has a positive return on individual and firmwide success. Their concept is this: create a wellness profile for firms to complete that identifies their level of investment in wellness. In summary, firms complete a survey, and those that score high are doing very well investing in the wellness of their employees and those that score low have room to improve. If you’re interested in learning more about Team Well Engaged’s presentation or the presentations of the other cohort members, please go to this website.
We’re grateful for Kim and her leadership at VMDO and her work elevating the voices of underrepresented groups in the AEC industry. Kim—alongside VMDO’s Michelle Amt, Director of Sustainability and Inclusion—has played a vital role in VMDO’s acquisition of the JUST Certification and in our firmwide diversity, equity, and inclusion training that was completed over the course of 2022. We look forward to continuing to invest in the wellness of our employees and our firm culture and calling on passionate individuals like Kim to help us constantly improve and expand upon our practices.