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, Te'Osha Baker-Bunch, 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, the conversation features guest Chris Wilkie, CEO of SHPE, otherwise known as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.
From running his own business to working with various organizations, Chris is a person with the capabilities needed to create, execute and get results. Since he has run a business of his own, he really understands the business side of things. His experience in the nonprofit sector has led him to work with a number of different populations and missions over the years. The consistent thread has always been about service and impact. SHPE, for example, aims to close the gap between Hispanics and the world of STEM in a successful way. To begin, Chris shares about a time in his life that he felt different from his peers. He believes that resilience is not something we are born with, but something we learn along the way. Over the years, the biggest lesson Chris has learned is the importance of listening rather than talking.
Then, Chris shares about how SHPE’s mission aims to address their goal. Research shows that if a student is not interested in STEM by the time they are in the 4th grade, they are unlikely to ever join the field. Many organizations out here aim to entice children to the world of STEM as early as possible. SHPE leverages their college and professional students through community service to partner with schools, serve as mentors, educate and introduce what STEM and science can look like. In the Hispanic community, there are not many people who look like them in this field. In the construction field, the majority of Hispanics are the lower wage labor workers, while the executive boards are largely white. It is important to set the stage so that young Hispanic students realize that they can also become leaders.
SHPE is the largest Hispanic STEM serving organization in the country with a membership makeup of about 80% college students and 20% professionals. They also boast a proportionately large female demographic. The largest benefit of being a member is the aspect of community, belonging and inclusion it provides. They also offer professional development programs designed to complement formal education of degree plans to help create leaders. While SHPE offers lots of professional development opportunities, the number one most talked about is the opportunity it allows for members to give back to their community. Chris wraps up the episode with three calls to action: be inclusive, know that you don’t have all the answers and lead by example and walk the walk.