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IWD2018: "You are your biggest advocate and voice so never let anyone quiet that."

Posted on Monday, Mar 5, 2018

IWD2018: Lendlease Project Executive Jenell Schroeder's advice for women and employers on breaking down gender barriersJenell Schroeder   
Project Executive
Lendlease (US) Construction Inc.

What was your progression into your leadership role?
I joined Lendlease in the summer of 2007 as an intern working on the Dana Hotel while finishing my Civil Engineering Degree at Bradley University. Once I graduated, I returned to Lendlease as a Project Engineer working on 505 N. State St. in Chicago, IL. Over the 10 years that I have been with the company, I have had a few different titles all while following the Project Management path. Most recently I was promoted to Project Executive.

I have been fortunate to work on a diverse portfolio of projects and on each project, I took on more and more responsibility and with that comes leadership opportunities. I took advantage of every opportunity provided to me at a young age to be a leader and was the lead Project Manager with a team reporting directly to me at the age of 27.

Did you always aspire to reach a leadership role in your career?
Yes. During one of the first weeks I was with Lendlease, I was in an induction meeting and was asked by the Principal in Charge of the Chicago office what did I want to be when I grow up. My response was that I wanted to have his job and lead the Chicago office one day.
Have you encountered any gender-specific challenges or obstacles in your career?
Unfortunately, the response is yes I have but how you respond to those challenges and obstacles is what differentiates you. I willingly and knowingly chose a male-dominated field when I chose to study Civil Engineering and then to ultimately pick a career in construction management. I told myself early on that I would NEVER let being a female stop me from achieving my goals and I haven’t because I am just as capable as every male that works besides me.

Hear from more leading US women and find out what women say is the reason they left their last job in the Hays 2018 Gender Diversity Report.

What Diversity and Inclusion initiatives exist in your company? What do you think are the most effective?
Most recently Lendlease initiated longer maternity leave of 12 weeks fully paid. If there is one thing I have learned as a new mother, it is that the first few months are crucial for not only the baby but also the mother. Having extra time without worrying about my financial situation or the fear of negatively affecting my career progression, gave me the peace of mind to focus on what was important and my relationship with my newborn son.

According to our survey, women are 35% more likely to say they are dissatisfied with their career level. Do you think woman have the same career opportunities as men in your sector? Why or why not?
I believe the gap is closing. I have been very fortunate in my career to work with some amazing women in very powerful positions. Many women choose to change industries/careers due to the immense time commitment that comes with a leadership position in the construction industry. With new initiatives that emphasize work-life balance, they allow women to not have to make the decision if work or family is more important.

The second biggest reason, after career progression, that women say they left their last employer is because of company culture. What cultural changes or initiatives can employers make to better retain their female workforce? What have you seen work during your career?
I have been very fortunate to have worked my whole career in a company that is focused on what you are capable of, rather than your gender. Letting women know they are not competing on gender but rather on your skills and capabilities is extremely important.

Also, flexible working is a very important topic for all employees recently. Women typically face different challenges than men when it comes balancing family and their career. How people work is evolving with teleconferencing and remote connectivity. Embracing that change is critical because it directly impacts the work life balance. At Lendlease, we have embraced work life balance as it has been a major initiative. I have seen direct results from allowing employees to work flexibly and been told that it’s a major factor in deciding if an employee would switch companies or not.

What is your advice for female professionals who are in, or are looking to work in, a management or leadership role?
You are your biggest advocate and voice so never let anyone quiet that. Also, don’t be complacent with your current title, position or work responsibility. You should always be working towards that next level. My manager always asks me if I am content with my position because as soon as I get the promotion that I had been working towards I ask in the same conversation what is needed to get to the next level.

Women in leadership: Find out what Gates Corporation Director Cindy Cookson has to say about her career path, challenges, and advice for both employers and women in the workplace.

Hear from more leading US women and find out what women say is the reason they left their last job in the Hays 2018 Gender Diversity Report.


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