When Giovanna Brasfield ’98, EdD, DPA, entered the construction industry and started advocating for workforce diversity and small business inclusion, she was often called “the meeting girl.” “Although young in my career and classified as a critical asset within the team, my initial role was to assist the procurement and project development teams by attending construction industry outreach, local community events and charitable activities that would position the firm to advance the inclusion of all individuals,” says Brasfield, CEO of Brasfield & Associates.
Yet with all the work Brasfield and other diversity advocates have done over the years to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the construction industry, the numbers remain stagnant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, whites comprised 87.9% of all construction workers in 2021, while Blacks comprised a mere 6.3%. By comparison, 19.6% of workers in the transportation industry are Black.
After earning her BA from the Mount in business administration, Brasfield earned two doctorates from the University of La Verne in 2007 and rose to the rank of vice president of project diversity and inclusion for the Western division at Flatiron, a civil construction company.
She served as the highest-ranking Black in the U.S. and Canada for Flatiron. Given the dearth of Black executives and senior leaders in construction, she called her appointment to vice president a humbling experience.
Sensing the U.S. was entering a transformative period in workforce diversity, Brasfield re-launched Brasfield & Associates in 2021, which she initially launched in 2004 but mothballed to work for Flatiron. “Now I can assist firms of all sizes with their diversity training and project strategy,” she says.
America’s construction industry is gearing up to tackle a multitude of infrastructure projects tied to the $2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, $550 billion of which are earmarked for new construction projects. “This is where there will be a need for more diversity, equity and inclusion policies, practices, and procedures and an elevated commitment to diversity, not quick fixes,” says Brasfield.
2020 was a year of exploration and listening to employees, says Brasfield. That exploration yielded action in 2021 as organizations drafted DEI commitment statements and hired professionals to train their workforces. “We’re seeing a huge push to launch DEI employee resource groups, business resource groups and employee training,” says Brasfield.
This year, DEI advocates are assessing the situation to ensure businesses are using experts to deliver training that goes beyond the warm and fuzzy one-and-done classes of the past. Training, Brasfield says, must be intensive and last up to nine months, not just a few hours. It should generate conversations, create deliberate organizational actions and set realistic goals or key performance indicators.
Businesses can measure the success of their training by collecting both qualitative and quantitative data and comparing it to pre-training data. This data should include post-training actions taken by company leaders, funds allocated to DEI and the number of labor resources provided to support DEI programs. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” says Brasfield.
Like other institutions and corporations across the U.S., the Mount committed to becoming an anti-racist University in its 2021-2026 strategic report. As a proud alumna, Brasfield is not surprised. “The Mount has always been at the forefront of change and creating an environment for leaders to take charge, like the creation of the Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California™, advocating at the state capital for equality and launching the Bernadette Roberts Center for Equity, Diversity and Justice. The Mount has truly remained committed to fostering a diverse, antiracist and welcoming community for students of all different backgrounds,” says Brasfield.