With firms across the CRE industry looking to strengthen their teams through the addition of diverse talent, BLDUP sat down with Whitney Mugford, Human Resources Manager with top electrical subcontractor JM Electrical to discuss their DEI strategy.
BLDUP: What does DEI currently look like at JM Electrical and why is it important to your organization?
Whitney Mugford: At JM Electrical Inc. (JME) we believe that a diverse and inclusive workforce helps create better work environments, fosters creativity, and drives innovation. According to Josué Pierre, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator & Research Analyst at the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and Local 103, “It is no secret that the construction industry as a whole has lacked diversity. Our DEI Empowerment Program aims to support under-represented electrical contractors through education, resource sharing, advocacy, and mentorship to grow their business.” By partnering with NECA and Local 103, and by taking advantage of the many resources they make available, we are striving to build a strong, welcoming, and diverse workforce.
BLDUP: What practices does JM have in place to bring diversity to both the firm internally and the job site and how do you build a pipeline of diverse talent?
Whitney Mugford: We are committed to cultivating and supporting new talent. Our corporate internship programs serve as a training ground for the next generation of professionals in the electrical contracting field. Through our long-time Engineering Co-Op Program, we partner with local colleges including Wentworth Institute of Technology and Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, to attract and inspire students of diverse ethnicities, genders, and abilities and give them the opportunity to learn, refine their skills, and grow professionally. Through these collaborations, students gain hands-on experience before entering the “real world” of work. Equally important, JME has established relationships with vocational schools; connecting us with graduating students from low-income and underrepresented communities who are seeking opportunities within our industry. These essential initiatives help students build both the professional-level skills and relationships that will be beneficial as they progress along their career paths.
Last year I had the pleasure of attending the Siemens Outreach event with our Principal and CEO, Matthew Guarracino. During this timely program we had the opportunity to network, connect and serve as mentors for women and people of color who owned and operated up-and-coming electrical contracting firms.
BLDUP: What stats do you track to ensure your DEI efforts are having a positive impact?
Whitney Mugford: There is an increased focus on equity and inclusion within the construction industry. For example, in 2021 Local 103 reported that 33% of its members joining the Joint Apprentice Training Committee were women and minorities, up from 27% in 2020 and 29% in 2021. These figures represent a slight increase over previous years. While there is certainly room for continued growth, as an industry we are moving in the right direction.
BLDUP: What goals do you, as the leader of JME’s Human Resources, have for the future of diversity and inclusion at the firm?
Whitney Mugford: There can be obstacles for women in a male-dominated field. We make every effort to support and retain female electricians by providing the training and the career opportunities they need to grow and succeed. We welcome the participation of young women in our apprenticeship program which gives them the chance to move up through the ranks, with the goal for them to eventually become Foremen on our team. JME recently invested in a prefabrication warehouse that will give working mothers the flexibility to balance the needs of their families with the demands of their careers.
BLDUP: As a female leader within the CRE space, what advice would you have for other women in the industry?
Whitney Mugford: Take every opportunity to learn something new, share ideas, and surround yourself with people who can teach and mentor you. We all have the potential to be strong, intelligent, powerful leaders. But first, you need to believe in yourself before you can expect anyone else to believe in you.
By Whitney Mugford, Human Resources Sales Manager, JM Electrical Company, Inc.