A Good Bet: Chapters Utilize Grants to Bolster Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Programs

The first four recipients of ABC's Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee's matching grant initiative are applying the funding in creative and effective ways.
By Rachel E. Pelovitz
September 16, 2021

Companies spend $8 billion a year on diversity training, according to McKinsey & Co., and are increasingly diverting financing toward inclusion, diversity and equity initiatives. Whether via specific interest groups, IDE-centric conferences and training opportunities or awards, the IDE movement is here to stay.

Associated Builders and Contractors is an example of an organization going full throttle. Besides the annual IDE Excellence Awards (featured in the May 2021 issue of the magazine), ABC conducts an annual summit, provides resource groups and has utilized its own Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee since 1999. Its newest effort is a $100,000 matching grant fund to assist chapters with developing long-lasting inclusion, diversity and equity programs that support the strategic initiatives of both the chapter and ABC National.

The four 2021 grantees—ABC of Michigan, ABC of Greater Houston, ABC Pacific Northwest and ABC Ohio Valley—are applying the funding in creative and effective ways.

ABC of Michigan

ABC of Michigan, which represents ABC Western Michigan, ABC Greater Michigan and ABC Southeastern Michigan, will use $10,000 to hire Woods + Watts, a DEI strategy firm that will build a framework for this new programming.

This proposal seeks to align with growth strategies aligned in the ABC strategic plan, funding safety, workforce development, membership and political advocacy initiatives. Further, Woods + Watts will develop a data and metric collection methodology so that the three chapters in the state can benchmark their current workforce and membership diversity and develop strategies for inclusion. “Without metrics we cannot measure, and without measurement we do not know if we are improving,” says Jimmy Greene, president of ABC of Michigan.

Working together will also allow the three chapters to take IDE statewide, rather than each having to fund and organize disparate initiatives. “We believe working in collaboration and partnership with one another to align inclusion, diversity and equity strategies will strengthen our teams, our members and our advocacy work,” Greene says.

At the fundamental level of the new program is measurement, data collection and benchmarking. Once benchmarking is complete, ABC of Michigan will then develop measurable goals to obtain greater diversity. But, at an in-depth level, the first year is ambitious, with anticipated results including:

  • Forming a chapter IDE task force.
  • Implementing at least one IDE initiative based on the assessment and design work completed by Woods + Watts in winter 2021/spring 2022.
  • Implementing ABC staff and ABC member educational sessions on the benefits of inclusion and diversity.

ABC of Greater Houston

Receiving a $10,000 grant, ABC of Greater Houston intends to commit funding toward staff augmentation, marketing/outreach and programs/events.

With 396 members and 80% retention, one of the reasons for this IDE revamp is to add 500 members and achieve 90% retention by 2023, of which 60 will be minority, women, disabled, veteran and LGBTQ+ members. Ultimately, the chapter hopes to ensure that diverse companies comprise 25% of membership. Other goals include developing an interactive IDE database, sponsoring four outreach activities in underrepresented areas of Houston annually and sponsoring four IDE training programs per year.

In this manner, IDE initiatives will be injected into current services, advising all members on embracing diversity, inclusion and relationship building with others outside their cultural groups, which “will enhance their businesses and personal lives while increasing marketability and viability in our market,” says a statement from chapter leadership.

With the implementation of these goals in mind, ABC Greater Houston has created an IDE committee consisting of more than 30 professionals from various firms and backgrounds to work in conjunction with existing ABC committees.

“ABC Greater Houston is proud to have the support of executive leadership and membership in pursuing this opportunity and looks forward to a successful implementation,” the chapter states.

ABC Pacific Northwest

Homing in on one specific program that will enhance chapter efforts, ABC Pacific Northwest received $5,725 to develop and print marketing materials for its High 5 Cultural Competency Training class, with the goal that all ABC members, apprentices (more than 250) and training agents will take the course whether in person or online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The training was designed by Oregon State University and endorsed by the Oregon Apprenticeship Division to offer opportunities to expand cross-cultural communication skills and knowledge, as well as to put them into practice in diverse working environments.

The interactive training does not end when the work day concludes. Participants are encouraged to refer to the training on a daily basis, which is why marketing materials—such as hardhat stickers, posters, a card-printing machine and laptops (for those without a device while the training is virtual) are so valuable. The chapter will be able to create physical, visual reminders of the training and jobsites will become safe spaces for IDE concepts.

“This High 5 Training will influence every facet of our organization, nationally and locally,” says Laurie Kendall, president of ABC Pacific Northwest. “Putting the High 5 Elements into practice, jobsites can support and expand a diverse workforce. This cultural competency training will directly affect the health, safety, development and well-being of apprentices and those who work with them.”

ABC Ohio Valley

“ABC Ohio Valley has long prided itself on being a chapter focused on innovation and addressing the construction industry’s most challenging goals,” says President and CEO John Morris. “Bringing more women into our industry while making sure they are met with an inclusive environment to grow and prosper is one of those challenging goals.”

That target—adding 10 new women to its apprenticeship program in 2021-2022—is what the chapter is hoping to hit with an influx of $10,000. Already, as of April 2021, ABC Ohio Valley launched LOGIC: Ladies Operating for Growth in Construction. Comprised of 17 participants, the group has requested more professional development opportunities for those already in construction, as well as opportunities to incentivize contractors to recruit more women into apprenticeship.

In its grant request, the chapter wrote: “There are plenty of networking events for women in construction [in terms of] social groups. We need real professional development, programs with a purpose and substance to help us grow as professional women leading in the construction industry."

The grant funds will be used to market and grow LOGIC while simultaneously implementing professional development suggestions (to include events and speakers) and increasing overall female apprenticeship participation from 1% to 5% to double the number of LOGIC participants to 34.

These grants are just the first to recognize and honor chapter-based commitment to IDE programs. Over time, each firm in the chapter will benefit from these pledges, allowing them to be competitive in an environment of fair and open competition where everyone—everyone—is a decision-maker.

The second round of chapter grant proposals are due by 5 p.m. ET on Oct. 29. Please send questions to

by Rachel E. Pelovitz

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