When a random group of individuals was asked to describe the images that came to mind when they thought about the construction industry, most mentioned hard hats, orange cones, yellow vests, heavy machinery, beams, and dump trucks. Interestingly, all described male workers. Only one respondent associated construction with women and noted that if a woman is working within the construction industry, she is most likely in a supervisory role.
It is these perceptions and realities that HILTI Corp., developers, and manufacturers of products, systems, software and services to the construction and energy sectors, is committed to change. Its Diversity and Inclusion initiative places a deliberate emphasis on women and their representation within the construction industry. HILTI’s numbers suggest the company is headed in the right direction.
With a workforce comprised of more than 24 percent females, where 13 percent of those females are women who hold leadership positions, Hilti is making progress. In fact, Avi Kahn, Hilti’s North American region head and CEO, said nearly a third of its new team members last year were female. To this effect, Avi explains how Hilti has chosen to approach diversity and inclusion through a system of lenses it refers to as the three Gs: gender, generational and global.
“We decided to take three [areas] where we really believe we can make a real impact,” Avi said. “We are a global company, and we believe the mixture of culture, backgrounds, and nationalities will lead to more dynamic teams with higher quality discussions and debates and in the end, higher quality decisions.”
Much like gender and global, the third G – generational – examines Hilti’s commitment to its entire organization, regardless of differences.
“We want to be that great place to work throughout people’s careers, which is also part of our generational inclusion efforts,” Avi says. “So for us, generational diversity is offering the right benefits and the right job environment for people in their various stages of development and also making sure, regardless of your time with us and regardless of your age, you feel your experience and what you bring to the table is worthwhile.”
Beyond the surface
As Avi conveyed facts about the Liechtenstein multinational corporation’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, his passion shined through. Though Avi proves dedicated to his company’s directives, his delivery seemed to flow from a very sincere place. When asked to discuss diversity and inclusion from a personal perspective, Avi shared the manner in which his work impacted him on a deeper level, so much so that he signed on with two Catalyst-powered initiatives devoted to advancing progress for women.
“I joined Catalyst CEO Champions for Change as a commitment on behalf of Hilti and myself personally because we have so many efforts focused on gender diversity,” Avi says. “I also had the opportunity to participate in MARC – Men Advocating Real Change, and I became passionate about the topic and just ensuring that women have the same starting point and the same chance to succeed and bring their best forward.”
Avi says he is very proud and driven by his work with both Catalyst initiatives and noted that he also received honors from the Girl Scouts of North Texas.
And while Avi stresses his support of advancements for women, he reiterates the importance of building workforces and teams that are inclusive of other minority groups and of teaching the entire company about the concept of the privileged majority. Thus, Avi sees diversity and inclusion initiatives as vehicles for providing opportunities to create better environments for everyone.
“I think it is important to treat each other with respect and to have a certain level of curiosity about each other but in a respectful way,” Avi says. “Diversity is also something that makes you better because you learn about others.”