This week, we are showcasing several women who have made a significant impact on the industry and many people within it. Today, we sat down with Lolly Mozersky, the second of five interviews in our Women in Construction Week series, to discuss her motivations, core values, decision-making, and advice for women in the industry. We thank Lolly for taking the time to speak with us, and we hope you enjoy the insight she has to share.
Personnel decisions such as hiring and, unfortunately, terminations. Letting someone go, regardless of the reason, weighs heavy. I always empathize with the individual after they walk out the door. Who do they tell first? What do they do to move on? How has this changed their self-perception? Balancing compassion and the needs of the business can feel like a tightrope walk – difficult, but critical.
2. How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values”?
The obvious levers are extrinsic motivators (“sticks” and “carrots”). At I-Grace, we have numerous policies and practices that support our commitment to quality, integrity and service, such as our Code of Ethics, our Quality Control process, and our incentive structures. But those are not nearly as powerful as social norms. If you want individuals to internalize values, then what is most important is “walking the walk.” We don’t want to have to rely on disciplinary measures or the bestowing of rewards to force people to act a certain way. We want our personnel to make decisions and exercise autonomy. So, in the end, it is what we as leaders do, not what is written down in the form of a Mission Statement or Employee Manual, that matters most.
3. How do you support gender equality in the workplace?
We are lucky at I-Grace that we have a Founder and CEO, along with a leadership team, that believes this is important. We have had a couple of events geared towards women, but there are limitations to the impact of “affinity groups,” which put the burden on women to fix a problem that is not of their making. I think to myself, "Why aren’t we asking men and women to come up with solutions?" This is true of diversity in general; as a society, we often expect the victims of bias to figure out how to get rid of bias! It’s absurd. Leaders have a responsibility to use their voices to surface issues, no matter how uncomfortable. I am lucky in that I am not shy in speaking up, but what is more important is to be effective and to deliver outcomes. Modeling behavior, mentoring and developing women at the firm, and raising awareness are things I try to do every day. I still think we need to do much more.
4. What motivates you as a leader?
Fear of failure! But seriously, for me, it is making a difference in a person’s day-to-day experience. I am a big fan of humor to help people feel more comfortable and connected to one another. Any time I can help someone be her or his authentic “self” in the workplace and feel valued, I consider it a “win.”
5. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Unconscious bias and lack of awareness. For example, Joe and Jane are both project managers with similar education and experience. Joe is praised for his ability to run job-site meetings and is poised to be promoted. Jane is criticized for being too tentative at meetings and told that she needs to be more confident and assertive before she will be considered for a promotion. What nobody, including Jane, is asking, is why is this the case? Could it be the fact that Jane is the only woman on the job-site? That she was called “hon,” by the architect, the site foreman never made eye contact (though his eyes were on her), and when she arrived on the site a group of male colleagues immediately stopped laughing and talking when they saw her? Is it fair to say she does not have the ability to run a meeting, or have we set an expectation and a means of assessment that are fundamentally flawed?
Another manifestation of this can be seen in a company’s polices. Certain policies – such as not allowing flex-time or tele-commuting – may have a disproportionate, negative impact on women, who still tend to take on more of the domestic tasks (though this is – hopefully – changing), even though that is not the intent of such policies. Women end up losing out on advancement opportunities because they are perceived as being less committed. Or, they are not considered for a position because of a gap in their work history (I disagree with this entirely; anyone who has raised children can handle whatever is thrown their way in the workplace!). I think an analytical approach is the best way to combat this. Separating impact from intent is a deliberate practice, one that is data-driven, and requires looking beyond your own company or industry.
6. Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader / mentor?
There are so many. Every person I have worked for directly has shaped my thinking and influenced my behavior. But I think the greatest learning has come from the people I have supervised. It is daunting and humbling to realize someone is looking to me for guidance or approval. That keeps me constantly striving to improve as a leader.
7. What advice would you give to women trying to break into the Facilities Management / Construction Management / Engineering / Architecture fields?
Education, education, education! These are technical fields and the greatest confidence-enhancer is knowledge. Keep abreast of what is going on in your field, read voraciously, attend industry events, and take classes. All of this, as well as paying attention to how you speak. It is so important, especially for women, to speak in a way that does not undermine their intelligence or make them seem tentative or uncertain. Breathe, take a moment to see if you are holding your breath before you speak, and remember that unless you are asking a question, there is no need to make a statement sound like one. Trust yourself. You’ve got this!