PBN 2023 Business Women Awards
OUTSTANDING MENTOR: Marianne Monte | Shawmut Design and Construction chief people and administration officer
WHEN A HEADHUNTER first approached her about a position at Shawmut Design and Construction in 2015, Marianne Monte admits that she wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of working in the construction industry.
Monte recalled the headhunter saying the Providence-based construction company is “just doing things very differently.” That headhunter was spot on, said Monte, now Shawmut’s chief people and administration officer.
“I mean progressive and construction, I would never have thought of in the same sentence. But it’s clear that both our board and our executive leadership team wants us to be different,” Monte said. “And we work hard every day at it.”
Today, Monte is excited to go to work every day at Shawmut, a $1.3 billion, employee-owned construction management firm based in Providence. She oversees strategy and processes related to human resources, marketing, legal and information technology. Some of Monte’s main focus areas are related to hiring and retaining talent.
“The importance of her leadership and mentorship cannot be emphasized enough,” Shawmut CEO Les Hiscoe said.
Monte is heavily involved in driving the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Over the last eight years, for example, she has played a lead role in helping Shawmut retain a workforce that is more than 30% female, much higher than the 10% national industry average.
Monte also partnered with Hiscoe at Shawmut to develop the firm’s diversity leadership council, which is made up of 70 employees nationwide. The council drives Shawmut’s work to create a diverse, equitable workplace with a culture of belonging and inclusivity.
It’s important for women, as well as people of color, to see a pathway for themselves to grow within Shawmut, Monte says. If an employee can’t see themselves in a higher position within a company, they’re more likely to leave.
“We want to be a place where we’re all valued,” Monte said. “We do this not just because it’s the right thing to do. We do this because we know our client gets a much better product. Our business succeeds when we have diverse voices and diverse mindsets around the table.”
Monte adds that when she visits job sites, members of the community often make comments such as, “Wow, there are a lot of women here.”
In wishing to create a supportive work environment for women and minorities, Monte led the launch of Shawmut’s Inclusion Learning and Awareness Plan. The plan was developed for employees to understand and interrupt unconscious biases.
Monte and Shawmut also created sponsorship relationships, which pair high-potential, underrepresented employees – including women – with executive sponsors. These relationships leverage sponsors’ experience to support sponsees’ career aspirations.
Plus, Monte is Shawmut’s first-ever chief people and administration officer. The company feels Monte’s promotion provides an encouraging sign to women at Shawmut who are pursuing executive roles at the company.
“I make a conscious effort to identify our high-performing, high-potential talent every year,” Monte said. “So, this can be someone who is only two years out of college and we think has great potential and really performs well. [It] could be someone who has been in their career for 20-plus years and just needs a little extra focus to get him or her over the goal line to be ready for the C-suite.”
One of Monte’s favorite sayings is, “Every good mentor had a mentor.” Decades later, she is still in touch with one of her first mentors.
“She showed me how to be a strong woman in a corporate environment, but not to put a costume on,” Monte said. “At the time, I obviously knew I was a lesbian, but I wasn’t open about it. But back in the early ’90s when no one talked about it, she created a safe environment for me.”
Roughly 30 years later, Monte still thinks of that mentor as she creates policies and programs that help employees bring their full selves to work. “I’m so grateful that she let me be me,” she said.
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