Empowering women has been part of the mission at the YWCA Central Massachusetts for more than a century. And that ethos was woven deeply into the specs for a US$24 million project to renovate the community hub in downtown Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.
In an unprecedented move, the YWCA partnered with Consigli Construction to sign the city’s first-ever community benefits agreement. The contract promised an entirely women-led construction management team and living wage jobs with benefits. It also placed an emphasis on employment of union contractors, local women and people of color.
And the team delivered.
Helmed by five women, the Consigli team updated the infrastructure, expanded capacity and improved security at the multipurpose facility—part community center, part gym, part women’s shelter. There’s also an early education and care facility, which got its own makeover, with Consigli creating a new classroom and playground, while YWCA staff integrated STEM programming and portable resources.
The project didn’t just bring the building up to code—it “really gives our families and the people we serve the space they deserve,” Linda Cavaioli, executive director at YWCA Central Massachusetts, said in a Consigli video.
Top of mind for the construction team: stakeholder needs and inclusivity. The renovation called for a complete overhaul of the plumbing and mechanical systems, as well as heavy demolition—all while the facility remained open.
To keep disruption to a minimum, the Consigli team helped temporarily relocate YWCA residents to a nearby college dormitory during the construction phase. And the project manager even arranged the schedule to reduce heavy demolition during the regularly scheduled nap times of the children. It was in those small but powerful decisions that project executive Jody Staruk saw the value of all-female leadership team.
“The women on the team, several of whom are mothers—that was something that they just thought of that I can’t say I’ve seen on other jobs,” she told Fast Company.
Women make up only 11 percent of the construction industry’s workforce in the U.S., according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The share of female construction managers is even smaller. Case in point: Staruk is the first female project executive in Consigli Construction’s 116-year history—and she recognizes the change it signals.
“To be able to start my career as a project executive and say the first project that I officially won was for the YWCA and I get to lead an all-women team is just huge,” she said in the Consigli video. “I’ve worked with all these women individually on different jobs, but to be able to have them in one room and watch them work together and plan and execute this job—amazing from start to finish.”