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Suffolk Partners with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts to Increase Women’s Representation in Construction and STEM Fields

by: Jessica Hoover
The Girl Scouts designed and built structures that could support the weight of at least one book — using only popsicle sticks and clothespins.
The Girl Scouts designed and built structures that could support the weight of at least one book — using only popsicle sticks and clothespins.
The Girl Scouts designed and built structures that could support the weight of at least one book — using only popsicle sticks and clothespins.
The Girl Scouts designed and built structures that could support the weight of at least one book — using only popsicle sticks and clothespins.
The Girl Scouts tested Suffolk’s VR headsets that allow Suffolk teams and clients to visualize and review projects digitally, using Suffolk's 3D assets.
The Girl Scouts tested Suffolk’s VR headsets that allow Suffolk teams and clients to visualize and review projects digitally, using Suffolk's 3D assets.
The Girl Scouts tested Suffolk’s VR headsets that allow Suffolk teams and clients to visualize and review projects digitally, using Suffolk's 3D assets.
The Girl Scouts tested Suffolk’s VR headsets that allow Suffolk teams and clients to visualize and review projects digitally, using Suffolk's 3D assets.
With women representing only 9.9 percent of building industry workers, Suffolk is addressing this gender gap through a partnership with the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts (GSEMA). The Rebuild the Ratio initiative seeks to increase the percentage of women employed by Suffolk by 10 percentage points over 10 years by inviting the Girl Scouts to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)-focused events and developing a curriculum for construction-related careers. This percentage increase will provide more jobs for women and boost the percentage of women employees to nearly 40 percent.

GSEMA is comprised of 20,000 Girl Scouts in 178 communities in eastern Massachusetts and is the largest girl-serving organization in the state.

“The Girl Scouts’ four pillars are STEM, Outdoors, Entrepreneurship, and Life Skills,” said Libby Murphy, Project Executive at Suffolk. “The similarities between those pillars and the construction industry, it just makes for such a fitting partnership. I’m so happy that I get to be involved in it.”

Industry studies show that 74 percent of teen girls said they were interested in STEM, with 81 percent considering a career in a specific STEM field. But only 13 percent will pursue that career. Suffolk’s Rebuild the Ratio initiative seeks to make a change in those statistics by providing mentorship and accentuating representation of women in construction in a positive way, while exposing girls to construction and STEM fields at a young age.

“It’s really important for Suffolk to showcase the mentors and the women that we have here to really dispel that myth that construction is not for women,” Murphy said.

Day of Learning at Suffolk
Women from Suffolk’s Boston headquarters recently hosted 22 Girl Scouts in grades 6-8 from Camp Cedar Hill in Waltham, Massachusetts, for a day of learning about the world of construction and the importance of female representation in the industry.
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To begin the day, the Girl Scouts were introduced to Suffolk and its projects, were given a tour of the headquarters, and engaged in a question-and-answer session with Suffolk female leaders. The girls were also taken to Suffolk’s CoLab, where they used virtual reality to tour projects that have not yet been built, and participated in STEM activities like the popsicle stick challenge, where they built structures out of popsicle sticks to see how many books they could hold.

Women from the team working on the Northeastern University EXP project also gave the Girl Scouts a jobsite tour to show them the different roles within a construction project. The Northeastern University EXP project is led by a female project executive, and the project team is nearly 50 percent female.

“Our goal was really for the girls to be able to understand and see the different career opportunities, not just in Suffolk but in the construction industry as well,” Murphy said. “It was cute to see that they were so eager to tell you about all the different people that they know, like, ‘My uncle is an architect’ or ‘My father is a plumber’ and they know all these different tradespeople. But what we really want to do is help them see that women are also in these roles. So it’s something that they can achieve as well.”

Curriculum for Career Exploration
Suffolk is also partnering with GSEMA to develop a Construction 101 Curriculum, customized for girls 5-17 years of age. The curriculum aims to further STEM career exploration and inspire girls who are interested in construction-related STEM careers. Suffolk and GSEMA pledge to bring 10 percent of all Girl Scouts in eastern Massachusetts through the curriculum during the next 10 years.

“At Suffolk, we have gathered a group of women in our operations group — estimators, project management, supers, planners — to create this curriculum,” Murphy said. “It’s a patch that’s going to show all of the opportunities that are out there in the construction industry. Not just in Suffolk, but in the industry overall.”

Suffolk is planning on doing a soft launch of the curriculum for the Girl Scout level, Juniors, this fall. The company will collect feedback and then officially launch the curriculum in the spring. After the initial launch, Suffolk plans to expand the curriculum to other levels of Girl Scouts.

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