Welcome to the Construction DEI Talks podcast, where we explore the crucial topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion as they pertain to the construction industry. In this episode, our co-hosts Jorge Quezada, Vice President of Inclusive Diversity at Granite Construction, and Stephanie Roldan, Director of Lean Culture at Rosendin, engage in a thought-provoking conversation with the esteemed guest, Roger Millar, Secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
Roger, an experienced land use and transportation engineer, planner, and program manager, is renowned for his innovative approaches to conservation and development. Throughout his illustrious career, he has focused on planning and implementing transportation systems that not only drive economic vitality but also prioritize environmental stewardship, social equity, public health, and aesthetic quality.
In this episode, Roger begins by sharing his profound understanding of stewardship and dispelling the misconception that WSDOT's role is solely limited to constructing roads. He reveals the monumental scope of the department's projects, having invested over $200 billion in publicly owned infrastructure, including roads, bridges, ferries, railroads, and more. Roger emphasizes that his real responsibility lies in stewarding the public's investments.
Drawing from his experiences as a child in an army family, Roger reflects on the transformative power of moving from place to place. He recounts the moment he stepped off a plane in Shanghai, where he felt a profound sense of difference. Discover how this upbringing cultivated his capacity to see the world through a steward's lens and how each new location taught him valuable lessons about communication and diverse perspectives.
The conversation then delves into the fundamental role of relationships in the construction industry, highlighting WSDOT's comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion program. The department strives to diversify its workforce by welcoming more women and people of color into the traditionally male-dominated construction field, ensuring that their work benefits the entire community. By acknowledging past industry missteps and embracing an inclusive future, Roger explains how Washington State can reap the tremendous benefits of a broad range of backgrounds and cultural experiences by 2050, where no majority culture is projected to exist.
Prepare to be inspired as Roger unveils WSDOT's powerful and inclusive strategic plan, one that engages every individual and prepares the department to navigate natural disasters and shifting demographics. Discover how WSDOT's pre-apprenticeship support programs collaborate with community colleges, labor groups, and contractors to bring men and women from diverse backgrounds into the construction trade. As a result, an impressive 45% of apprentice hours worked on WSDOT contracts are contributed by women and people of color.
As the episode concludes, Roger leaves us with three impactful calls to action: be yourself, listen to people, and educate yourself. Don't miss this opportunity to gain invaluable insights from Secretary Roger Millar and WSDOT as they lead the way in transforming the construction industry through diversity, equity, and inclusion.
For more information about Construction DEI Talks, follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. Learn more about our podcast sponsors, Granite Construction and Rosendin. Connect with Secretary Roger Millar and WSDOT to stay updated on their remarkable initiatives.
Construction DEI Talks
Episode: S2 Ep9 - Transforming Construction through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: A Conversation with WSDOT Roger Millar
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 speak with guest Roger Millar, Secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation. He is an experienced land use and transportation engineer, planner and program manager with an international reputation for innovative approaches to conservation and development. The prominent theme of his career has been planning and implementing transportation systems which serve as the means for economic vitality, environmental stewardship, social equity, public health and aesthetic quality.
To begin, Roger walks us through what being a steward means to him. Many people think that the DOT simply builds roads. However, in Washington for example, the DOT has constructed over $200 billion of publicly owned things: roads, bridges, ferries, railroads, fleet and more. His job is thus not to build roads, but to be a steward of the public’s investments. Then, Roger shares about his childhood in an army family and constantly moving from place to place. It was stepping off of a plane in Shanghai that he felt most different. Don’t miss as he expands on what about moving from place to place helped him build capacity to see the world from a steward lens. Each time Roger settled into a new place, he got just a bit better at communicating and learned something new about many different places.
Next, the conversation shifts to discussing how much the business of construction is reliant on relationships as opposed to transactions. WSDOT’s diversity, equity and inclusion program is four-fold. First comes the diversity of their employees, which focuses on bringing more women and people of color into the traditionally white male construction field and ensuring the work they do benefits the whole community. It is important to acknowledge where the industry has gone wrong in the past to be able to move towards a truly inclusive future. By 2050, there will be no majority culture in Washington state. Roger expands on how we can all benefit so much from having an expansive amount of backgrounds and cultural experiences to draw from.
Then, Roger walks listeners through WSDOT’s impressive strategic plan. The plan needed to be simple, powerful and something everyone could see themselves in. When Roger joined in 2016, he understood that WSDOT had to be an organization that plans for and is able to respond to natural disasters and the shifting demographics. To do this, it is necessary to reach everyone and maintain DE&I and environmental efforts. WSDOT offers pre-apprenticeship support programs in an effort to diversify the field. They work with community colleges, labor groups and contractors to bring men and women into the construction trade. The apprentice hours worked on WSDOT contracts, 45% of those hours are worked by women and people of color. Roger closes out the conversation with 3 calls to action: be yourself, listen to people and educate yourself.