The sense of belonging is basic to survival. Belonging in the professional community improves employee retention, morale, productivity, and creativity. At OAC, we recognize the value of belonging and inclusion as part of our intentional endeavors to incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) into all that we do.

In October, OAC hosted the construction community at our Seattle headquarters during the 2022 Construction Inclusion Week. Connecting Construction: A DEIB Symposium brought together 150+ attendees who share our vision for a more inclusive and diverse construction industry. What made OAC’s event different was the strategic effort to connect teams throughout the construction industry – planners, architects, engineers, contractors, consultants, owners, and their legal teams.

OAC recognizes that we’re performing at our best when we’re collaborating, together. That’s why we called it Connecting Construction: A DEIB Symposium. The Symposium started with a simple question: “What is your, ‘Why?’” DEIB practices can be difficult and slow-going. When work is difficult it’s important to recall why it is important, and what drives your work for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world.



The Symposium chair and OAC Director, Ashley McClaran, eloquently kicked off the all-day session, stating: “I want to live in a world where I’m not just allowed, but encouraged to bring my full self into my profession. To be in a workforce where my history and who I am is not something to overcome but recognized as added value.”

Racial Equity Work’s Patricia Lally, Keynote speaker, highlighted the importance of remaining curious personally and professionally and cultivating relationships with those different from you.

BRIC Architecture’s Karina Ruiz knows that what gets measured gets managed. She led the audience through a conversation on how Equity Commissioning and identifying, prioritizing, and then evaluating the successful implementation of equity-based design elements leads to equitable design. Don’t use old processes and expect new outcomes!

Some of our General Contracting partners noted the importance of authentic mentoring and how different approaches in contracting can help secure top talent among small or traditionally disadvantaged business owners. In addition, they ask owners to redefine “best value” in their selection criteria as a way to build a more equitable workforce. Owners looking to see a change in the makeup of available DEIB consultants can act on that intention through compelling qualifications requests in Requests for Proposals and flexible payment terms.

We also had speakers highlighting paths for developing more diversity in construction including the use of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP) and the ACE Mentoring program. The MPP encourages small businesses to partner with a more experienced firm for mentorship. At the same time, you’re gaining invaluable direction and experience, and you and your mentor can compete for government contracts, further growing your business. The ACE Mentoring program is a national mentor program focused on increasing the diversity of the AEC industry where students learn technical and soft skills, and the importance of teamwork and collaboration.

We closed out the day with the WA Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises (OMWBE). Since 1983 the OMWBE has helped businesses owned by minorities, women, and other underrepresented communities access contracting and procurement opportunities in state government. Their core services are certification, supplier diversity support, the Linked Deposit Program, and Governor’s Subcabinet on Businesses. Reach out for resources: [email protected]

It’s simply not possible to capture the day in a soundbite. The presence of so many partners, friends, and professional colleagues are what made this an amazing event. Thank you for attending and helping make this event a success! We’re excited to build on DEIB practices in all disciplines of the industry to create more welcoming environments and better partnerships through advocacy and meaningful engagement – together.

Click HERE to access slides presented at the event.