USGBC NCR Women in Green Session 3: Building Leadership

posted March 5th, 2020 in Blog

by E4H


Women gathered

USGBC National Capital Region’s volunteer Women in Green Committee closed out their 2019 Culture of Courage series with a high tea and panel discussion on Building Leadership. Other sessions explored topics of Speaking Up and Authenticity, Solidarity, & Diversity. This series of events featured dynamic keynote speakers, thought-provoking conversations, and provided ample opportunity to network with professionals from diverse backgrounds. Linda Tobin, Nan Schramm, and I had the opportunity to attend this amazing event.

All the volunteers for the Green Committee along with Nan Schramm, the co-chair of the committee, were asked to participate in a teapot centerpiece challenge, with an emphasis on sustainability. The event icebreaker asked attendees to brain-storm ideas to arrive at LEED points for the teapots. The discussions were lively, refreshing, and brought in a bit of comic relief. There were LEED points for Indoor Air Quality (aroma of tea), Innovative technology (Steam-driven motors) along with Hot Tea Toddy (Thermal comfort)!


The diverse panel of women leaders included Leslie Cruz (CEO) from STEMconnector, Andrea Gourdine (Senior Development Manager) from Douglas Development, and Kim Pexton from JBG Smith. The Women in Green committee has been striving to make this a broader conversation, and not limiting it to only the construction industry. Panelists included developers who prioritize a community enrichment, and those promoting a STEM strong workforce. These speakers were pioneers in their chosen fields and this event showcased a refreshing self-moderated dialogue between themselves and the audience. They quizzed one another, goaded, and collaborated to bring forth an infused brew of knowledge, passion, and perseverance.

Woman Speaker at conference

Andrea Gourdine related her story of calling the company which was developing a land parcel next to her residence and asking for a job, because she was passionate about its future development. She followed people’s advice when they asked her to go to business school. Her mantra was “Listen, do your research, and put a plan into action.” She emphasized doing what you love and capitalizing on one’s strengths.

Leslie Cruz joked about being mentor-less, in the literal sense. Her strength and resolve had stemmed from a tight network of friends, fellow moms, and her family. These were her hidden mentors, who had seen her through her ups and downs. “Being around the right people and giving yourself and others opportunities is essential,” she added.

Kim Pexton believes being a mentor or a mentee should be an organic process. Conversing with people, getting advice, and acting as a mentor to those around you, including family, ensures values are carried from generation to generation.

“Don’t wait for an invitation. Go into the room knowing you belong there.” Being present at the table and serving as a role model to the people at the table are leadership qualities. It is imperative to be present in a discussion, to listen and collaborate, and be part of the conversation.

The Panelists related making many mistakes and taking the title without the rightful pay. Making leadership take note of one’s growth and contribution are an imperative to take the first step. A person who believes in their worth will negotiate for a better compensation. The fine art of negotiation showcases an individual’s character and intellectual curiosity, which is essential to a company’s success and growth. Being confident and knowing that you deserve the pay, and the title, is important to one’s growth.

There are many barriers that we place in front of ourselves, they are not always someone else’s doing. If we see a barrier ahead, we can try to envision it in a different light and get creative. Asking for help and trusting the team that is around you will help you achieve.

Jane Smith, who runs her own practice in New York and was part of the audience, added that as designers we tend to put money and compensation on the backburner. Without compensation, it would be hard to sustain our practice and eventually we would have no room to exercise our creativity.

Our place in society and workplace is so intrinsically molded to our individual awareness and sense of worth, that it becomes an essential part of our everyday discussions. It was exhilarating to see so many leaders and members of the community come together and take part in these events.

To grow, evolve, and engage more people in these conversations is what E4H envisions to achieve as its work culture. To have the freedom to explore and continuously learn ensures a healthy workplace and a progressive movement towards a more meaningful collaboration.


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