Friday, December 27, 2019

Getting it done in Seattle

While most people associate the Space Needle, Starbucks, and the Seahawks with Seattle, the city is also making inclusion and equity strides.  

Back in October 2019, The Port of Seattle Fire Department promoted Stephanie McGinnis from Shift Captain to the Port's first female Battalion Chief at a badge pinning ceremony.  McGinnis will oversee one of four shifts within the Fire Suppression Division that responds to emergencies and calls for the Sea-Tac Airport.  The Port has been a leader in female hiring, hiring its first female firefighter in 1980.

Women make up only 4-7 percent of all firefighters nationally. Eleven percent of firefighters at the Port of Seattle are women.  “Since I’ve started 20 years ago we’ve doubled our female firefighter ratio and I’m really excited to be a role model not only to my firefighters but any other women out there,” said McGinnis. 


There is also a renewed push to bring more women into the construction trades as Seattle’s skyline continues to grow.

The Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Employment for Women program recently graduated nearly two dozen women to work in construction.

“I was in social work, and I got burned out,” said graduate Silas Follendorf.  Follendorf is working on Amazon's Block 21 project in South Lake Union.  Amazon helped finance Follendorf’s training, materials, and equipment for the roughly 12-week long course.  “I just love it so much. My life has radically changed,” she said.  Follendorf and other graduates were part of a hard hat tour at the South Lake Union site, looking at the future projects which may lie below.

ANEW Executive Director Karen Dove said there is a demand in trades for more workers, and that women hold a higher percentage of jobs than nationwide trends. “Nationally, women are only at 3% in the construction trades, in Washington we’re at 9%," Dove said.  Rough data shows more than 25,000 women are working statewide in some form of construction, which are family-wage jobs, Dove said.

Dove credited Amazon with recognizing the need for diversity and staffing as it continues to build out its 11.5 million square foot, 47-building Seattle campus. Amazon previously said it has donated $135 million to Seattle non-profits and homelessness support, along with money for public transit and education.

Women are also leading the way in construction of Seattle's new arena and it's fair to say there has never quite been a construction project like this one.
Tess Massaroni hands over a pair of earplugs and warns visitors “it's loud."  The noise is deafening.  That's because of the water jets which serve as a “hydro demo” of the building that was once KeyArena. "This is just a completely different engineering feat," said Ella Pilgrim, who moved here from Minnesota to help transform the Seattle Center grounds.
For these two women, the ringing in the eardrums is the sweet sound of progress at the site. As the site is transformed, Massaroni and Pilgrim are also trying to transform their workforce.  The project’s goal is to have women represent 7% of the overall workforce, which is about double the national average.
Massaroni is a superintendent on the project, working for construction lead Mortenson. The Marquette University alum, who graduated with a degree in civil engineering, is leading the structural demolition of the existing arena, including the installation of a temporary roof system.  "We're building a new arena underneath a roof. So many challenges with that," she joked, saying it doesn't compare with her previous gig. She, somewhat ironically, worked on an arena that was built because of a threat from Seattle. Massaroni was responsible for planning, garage build out, site work and landscaping at the Fiserv Forum -- the home of the Milwaukee Bucks.
"(That) arena in Milwaukee was a wide multiple block space, and tons of lay down area with nothing blocking our way."  That Bucks job gave her instant credibility with Mortenson, and with her peers. She stood alongside the Bucks CEO at multiple events through the course of construction. It takes less than five minutes around the temporary Seattle office to see Massaroni knows her stuff.
"One of the things I enjoy about my job is overcoming challenges on a daily basis," she said. "The mechanical electrical plumbing systems are complex, and the fire alarm, and life safety systems are super critical."
Across the way, inside the office, sits Ella Pilgrim. This also isn't her first rodeo. Her go-to book is the 'Steel Construction Manual,' which sits next to her desk.  "It's kind of the end-all-be-all for checking steel construction drawings," said the field engineer, with a smile.  Pilgrim said she kind of fell into this work, graduating from Purdue University in building construction management.
"I don't have any family in construction," she said, but "I knew I liked math and science and I knew STEM was something I wanted to do.”  That led to a gig helping with the construction of Allianz Field -- the home of the Minnesota United MLS team.    "That one didn't have a roof, this one does," she said of the obvious difference.  She's helping build out the TRS, in coordination with Massaroni. Pilgrim has a diagram, on her desktop, which shows a dizzying amount of steel.  "4,000 tons of (it) going in now, and a year from now will be pulled out," she said.
The complex procedures will help to prop up the multi-million-pound historic roof, which dates back to the 1962 World's Fair and allow for the excavation below.  Right now, outside of the roof, there is nothing that could be recognized as an arena. The grounds are essentially a blank canvas. Gone is the skateboard park, team store, and other aging buildings on the old arena's south side. By 2021, it will be the new entrance for a new Arena.
Massaroni and Pilgrim realize there are trailblazers on a project like this.  "Sometimes it takes a little bit of time to prove that I know what's going on and know what I'm talking about," Massaroni acknowledged.  However, as Pilgrim said, "It doesn't matter if it's male or female you need to go out there do your job and prove yourself, no matter who you are. It's really all about doing your job and being competent."
At a recent NHL Seattle-sponsored forum at the Pacific Science Center, Massaroni and Pilgrim were acknowledged for their work on the project.  Brent Leiter, the Project Executive with Mortenson, announced that the roof was ‘fully braced and credited his company’s engineers with getting the work done after only 10 months of planning.  Steve Hofmeister, the Managing Principal for Thorton Tomasetti, made the point that the roof was the weight of the entire population of the entire city of Tacoma.  
Leiter said crews will begin pouring the foundation for the ‘new’ arena by the end of this year.
According to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report, women-owned businesses bring $33 billion to Washington's economy despite only a 10 percent increase since 2014.  The report says 42 percent of businesses in the United States are owned by women and they generate more than $1.9 trillion in revenue.

"This report really demonstrates there a ton of woman who have a lot to offer the economy,” said Rohre Titcomb, the Vice President of Operations for the Female Founders Alliance, a Seattle-based group helping women launch companies.
According to the report, there an estimated 215,185 women-owned businesses in the state of Washington.  The businesses generate roughly $33.6 billion in annual revenue. The study says Washington ranks 19th in growth for the number of women-owned businesses out of all 50 states.  “I think there is always work to be done. One of the values we have here at [the Female Founders Alliance] is there’s always work to be done and no one is perfect,” said Titcomb.
Titcomb said don't forget, women are still achieving success in Washington by finding jobs at already established companies.
“There’s an increased focus in attaining and retaining top talent who are women,” said Titcomb.
Both women said the study is proof there’s a network of women looking to see their peers succeed.
“When you empower a woman, we change the world. We’re world changers,” said Engberg.

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