Kabri Lehrman-Schmid has established herself as a highly skilled and competent general contractor. Her $1.9B portfolio is a testament to her diverse skill set and management competencies across all project phases. She has led transportation and higher education projects with progressive delivery models, demonstrating her ability to navigate complex projects effectively.
However, Kabri's passion extends beyond project management. She has built a reputation for establishing higher expectations for the performance and role of a general contractor. Her efforts to influence the industry have focused on improving workforce health, examining bias, and challenging stigmas that impact mental health in the construction industry.
Kabri's contributions to the industry have not gone unnoticed. She was recognized as one of ENR's 2023 20 Under 40 professionals in AEC, a cover page honoree for Construction Business Owner's 2019 20 Outstanding Women in Construction, and the recipient of AGC of Washington's Rising Star Award in 2022. These honors highlight her commitment to driving positive change in the industry.
As a passionate advocate for field management's role in examining bias and challenging stigmas that impact mental health in the construction industry, Kabri uses multiple media platforms to spread awareness to a growing audience. She recognizes that diversity and inclusion efforts cannot exist without addressing the root causes of exclusion and discrimination in the industry.
Kabri Lehrman-Schmid's passion for improving workforce health and advocating for the examination of bias and stigmas in the construction industry makes her an inspiring figure. Her accomplishments and recognition in the industry highlight her commitment to driving positive change. We hope that her story will inspire others in the industry to take action and create a more inclusive and equitable environment.
Learn more about Kabri Lerhman-Schmid.
Welcome to the Construction DEI Talks podcast, where we dive into diversity, equity, and inclusion as they relate to the construction industry. Co-hosts Jorge Quezada, Vice President of Inclusive Diversity at Granite Construction, Stephanie Roldan, Director of Lean Culture at Rosendin, and Aby Combs, Inclusive Diversity Business Partner at Granite Construction, bring new conversations with subject matter experts and discuss how we can make our industry better and stronger. Today, Jorge and Aby talk with guest Kabri Lerhman-Schmid, a superintendent at Henson Phelps. She has over 16 years of experience and active campus projects totaling over $1.9 billion dollars. She joins the show today to talk about her background, diversity in construction, how she has seen the industry change and best practices.
First, Kabri shares a time she felt different with her experience coming into the role of project superintendent. She realized she conducted work and projects differently than those around her. She was on the night shift and reported how it went and was told she shouldn’t focus on the drama. She says even five years later, this is sinking in more. The way she was communicating was seen as dramatic because she was asking different questions and actively listening. Kabri can still look back on this experience and gain meaning from it. She started as a field engineer on the East Coast surveying, checking quality, and following up on safety. Her company was supporting women, black and veteran employees, however, a lot of people didn’t understand why women needed a women’s group. There wasn't enough of an understanding or discussion on a corporate level. Her perspective has also changed as her roles have increased. She values her level of responsibility as a role model and leader and wanted to serve people in a way that supported each of them. She talks about breaking down the barrier between personal and professional, and treating people the way they need to be treated to start changing the conversation. She says this forced us to look at our people as people.
Next, Kabri discusses the Culture of Care initiative developed with the AGC of Washington group. They found ways to provide tools for the field and local leaders developed what the industry needed. They have annual and quarterly forums that engage all members about diversity, inclusion, safety, and mental health. She says the hardest thing is to make sure the resources are applicable to people in the field since there is a multitude of diversity dimensions. Kabri states there is a lack of understanding in the industry about what DEI is. There is a level of fear that something will be changing or going in a negative direction, like people's values. People want to make sure we’re preserving the pride of work, culture of training and apprenticeship, and how we’re building to support the community and loved ones. In DEI, there's a feeling that we will separate these values, but it’s quite the opposite and truly celebrating and caring for all people.
Kabri says some of her best practices are first making sure that she has something to say in meetings and orientations. She’s heard that there are two things her orientations have that most don't– first, she shows employees the renderings of the buildings, or what the completed project will look like so they can see the bigger picture and impact they’ll have. The second thing she does is tell them the basics of their workplace, like where the restrooms are. People need to feel welcomed and assured of how they fit into their work. We also need to know what’s valuable to them to make them successful. They share this quote: “It's not as important what you look at, but what you see.” We can look at things all we want, but when we truly see things, we place more value on them.
Lastly, Kabri specifically talks about how Hensel Phelps is a large and old company, but is still figuring out what diversity looks like. They are creating additional development in leadership skills, like soft skills, and building up people and not just technical skills. They also were intentional about making people feel welcome in their job sites, specifically teaching about biases. Making change is all about supporting a change in perception and focusing on their people. She also states the importance of how to share information in the field. If we’re not doing a good job thinking about the format that things are presented with, then we are not hitting the people we need to. Before wrapping up, Kabri says to be the kind of person that looks at tasks you have for the day and realizes that you will do that with other people. Do use the resources available to you and know every single person in the industry.
Learn more about Kabri Lerhman-Schmid.