Girl Scouts explore careers in construction at third-annual Skanska event

Creative problem solving and diverse ideas took center stage at our third-annual event with Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles.

1 / 5 True to tradition, the day started with Stretch & Flex. EHS Manager LaTanya Jones led the group to get their blood flowing.
2 / 5 The Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles event was a joint planning effort between USA Commercial Development (CDUS), Skanska Women’s Network (SWN)’s Los Angeles and SWN Civil West.
3 / 5 Fifty middle and high schoolers from Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles visited Skanska’s 1811 Sacramento and Sixth Street Viaduct projects for a career-driven day focused on diversity and inclusion, and sustainability.
4 / 5 A creative challenge had girls break up into teams and come up with innovative mixed-use plans for the retail space at our 1811 Sacramento building.
5 / 5 Skanska Women’s Network (SWN) members shared their personal experiences in construction with the next generation of female leaders, encouraging them to think big about their future.

Now on its way to becoming tradition, the half-day event served as an unofficial kickoff for Women in Construction (WIC) Week 2022. Through a site tour of our Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement project, a points-driven group challenge and more, 50 Girl Scouts encountered the possibilities of a career in construction as they gathered with female Skanska leaders across the business.

“Anything we can do to grow these girls and show them opportunities they might’ve not otherwise thought about is really critical,” says Executive Vice President, Clare De Briere.

This thinking guided our USA Commercial Development (CDUS) team’s planning efforts alongside Skanska Women’s Network (SWN) Los Angeles, USA Building and Civil West chapters, ahead of the March gathering.

In a similar vein, last year’s event, though virtual, connected young women to an array of industry opportunities.

Still, the physical nature of this year’s event created an atmosphere of warmth and confidence among attendees that couldn’t have happened online.

“There was a shy girl attending who wanted to be an architect. We had one of our architects pair up with her and talk with her,” says Development Associate Mari Zamora.

“Being in person, that virtual wall comes down and these girls can actually talk to somebody who looks just a few years older than them and is doing what they want to do,” says Mari.

Moment of empowerment for both Girl Scouts and Skanska leaders

Building an authentic connection between Skanska’s female leaders and the next generation was just one positive outcome of the day.

“It was really great for the women at Skanska to have a platform to talk about what they do every day,” says Mari.

“To share their experiences–where they started, what they currently do, what they wanted to do when they were younger–is important. Their sharing allowed us to also recognize the women we work with in a thoughtful way,” continues Mari.

The career panel experience helped the Girl Scouts envision how to hold multiple responsibilities–both professional and personal–at the same time.

“It’s important for girls to see that there’s this balance [between work and personal life],” says Mari. “We had girls that were freshmen and sophomores in high school, so we wanted to be honest with them and show them their goals in life are realistic and attainable.”

Exposure to Skanska’s way of working equips young women to innovate and problem solve

Before jumping into the day’s flagship challenge, Skanska architects, engineers and designers across CDUS, USA Building (USB) and USA Civil (USC) shared real-life construction knowledge and insight into several Skanska-led projects underway in Los Angeles.

One presentation led by CDUS team members focused on sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and safety in construction and architecture practices.

With a toolbox of new learnings in tow, the Girl Scouts eagerly embraced the day’s creative challenge: crafting plans for the ground-floor retail space at our new 1811 Sacramento office building in Los Angeles’ Arts District.

Breaking into small groups with one Skanska coach supporting, the girls had 20 minutes to develop mixed-use plans that achieved sustainability and community service goals.

Different types of retail spaces held varying point values based on their cost, financial benefit and overall value to office building tenants and the community.

In addition to designing plans, teams had to craft a mission statement, work within a budget and pitch their vision in three minutes or less.

Outside-the-box thinking was encouraged and teams didn’t hold back.

One team came up with a gym concept that integrated childcare so parents could work out after school while having their kids nearby.

Another team created plans for a community garden connected to a juice shop that would use the garden’s crop to produce fresh menu items.

Furry friends also found their way into some teams’ concepts.

To serve the dog community, one team proposed a three-in-one space with dog daycare, grooming and a bakery–with treats for dogs and people. Office tenants could also play with the puppies at the daycare when they needed stress relief.

Judges deliberated as teams toured our Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement project. The winning team would get 100 cookie boxes worth of sales from Skanska—this year that prize went to team Febo for their eco-friendly community garden concept focused on sustainability and reuse.

Produce grown in the garden would be used in the onsite restaurant. In turn, the restaurant would commit to composting food waste and giving that compost to the garden.

All in all, winning the challenge was just one facet of the day.

Why days like this matter

In the short and long term, this partnership holds great value for Girl Scouts and Skanska women.

Theresa Edy Kiene, chief executive officer, Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, reflects on the empowering relationship. “The world has changed profoundly over the past couple of years, but Skanska’s partnership and support of our STEAM programming have remained steadfast.”

“This has enabled Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles to continue to make strides towards our pledge to increase girls’ involvement in STEAM and transform the field into an equitable space,” says Theresa.

By showing up and participating, Girl Scout Cadettes (6th-8th graders) earned their STEM Career Exploration Badge. Seniors (9th-10th grade) and Ambassadors (11th-12th grade) completed two parts toward the Think Like an Engineer Journey. For Skanska women across the country, this was a chance to collaborate and come together ahead of WIC Week. 

Perhaps most importantly, the day gave our team members a platform to live out Skanska’s commitment to diversity.

Of the 32,000 girls that Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles serves, one-third are from low-income communities, with a large group of girls identifying as Latinx.

“The girls got to see women who are Latinx and Black sitting on these panels in incredibly important positions,” says Clare. “It was very fulfilling to show these girls that these awesome women have important jobs.”

Creating a positive association with Skanska that sticks long after WIC Week is something the team also hoped would come out of the day.

 “It’s really important for them to get to know big companies where the values are important and they have a place–whether it’s on the development, construction or civil side,” says Mari.

“We hope our company name becomes more familiar to them so that when they’re interns in college, they come to us…we just want to stick with them for as long as we can,” says Mari.