Diversity & Inclusion in Construction: A Look into the Work of Ellen Ward at Joeris General Contractors

For almost a decade, Ellen Ward has been making an impact as the diversity & inclusion manager for Joeris General Contractors in San Antonio.

Ward originally went to school for communications, radio, and television. After graduating, she found a temporary position working with Joeris where she would click with her boss who then asked her to join the Joeris team full time.

“When I came on, they thought this might be a good role for me [in] diversity and inclusion and I ended up loving it,” she said. “I’ve been doing it now for nine years. I’ve been with the company for 10.”

In her job, Ward primarily works with projects, internal capacity building, community outreach events, and mentorship programs.

“Through those things I think we’ve created a decent pipeline,” she said.

Diversity and inclusion are concepts that have been part of Ward’s life since she was young. As someone who is often subjected to stereotypes, Ward is invested and passionate on a professional and personal level.

“I’ve always been passionate about equal rights,” she said. “It’s necessary. I can’t believe it hasn’t happened yet.”

Ward considers one of the biggest challenges regarding diversity and inclusion is a general sense of awareness surrounding
the topic.

“The construction industry has a group of people that don’t really know about it and how great of an opportunity it is and how much there is,” she said.

One way Ward spreads that awareness in her role with Joeris is through community outreach events. More specifically, visiting schools to talk to students about construction and the benefits of considering the work as a career.

“Joeris is really good about going to schools, career days, and just locally in every city we’re in like Houston, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio,” she said. “We’re going all over.”

Not only that, Joeris also helps support programs in areas that might not otherwise have access to that information.

“I want to brag on the company, [we] donate to programs that help low-income areas to encourage them to go into construction,” she said.

These programs and outreach initiatives are all aimed at encouraging different groups of people to join the construction industry and a way to dispel any myth that the construction workforce is declining.

“We’re determined to make sure that doesn’t happen and usually that includes making sure people who don’t usually think of construction, like minorities or women, know that this is a great opportunity,” Ward said.

In her role, Ward looks forward to being part of the journeys of the businesses they work with.

“My favorite part is when a successful business gets work at Joeris and it’s in the news or they are like, ‘hey, I just hired two more people,’” she said. “Helping create a successful small business is my favorite part.”

Ultimately, Ward hopes that work she does on a daily basis will contribute to a future where a position in diversity and inclusion won’t be necessary.

“I mean technically I guess if you really think about it, you’re working towards making your job obsolete,” she said. “When a diversity and inclusion [manager] is not needed and I’m not needing to have to reach out to the community, it’s normal for everybody to have it handled.”

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