BrightView program GROWs successful women in the industry Email
Written by Colorado Green   
Tuesday, October 23, 2018 05:00 AM

Kate Douglas KestynKate Douglas Kestyn works in metro Denver at BrightView, the largest landscape company in the nation. Yet, her vision for helping women in the industry spans the entire spectrum from local branches to the company’s national footprint and requires closer time intervals—daily, weekly, monthly—for involvement.

While she’s aware large, well-known corporations host an annual, destination event for all their female employees, Kestyn prefers a local, consistent approach to making things happen for women in the green industry. She says, “I keep coming back to the idea that how I prefer to be supported is at a much more personal level.”

That said, Kestyn is among the founders of BrightView’s first Employee Research Group that gathered last December at their west coast headquarters in Calabasas, CA. The think tank has since launched GROW—Growth in Relationships and Opportunities for Women with a goal to attract, retain and promote women in the company. One of their first initiatives was to survey the roughly 1,300 female employees, which make up 7 percent of the firm’s approximately 22,000 employees.

What they learned about females at BrightView:

  • Women overwhelmingly like working for the company.
  • They feel their opinions matter and they feel they are heard and respected by their supervisors and male peers.
  • When asked why they stay in their jobs, respondents cited (1) they love what they do and (2) they work with great people in a great company.

As a company, there is great opportunity to move up quickly. But Kestyn points out the challenge for GROW, and the industry in general, is, “How do we get people to understand there is a viable career in the landscape industry?” Especially in a field dominated by men, she says, “there is a perception that women can’t have a future starting as a crew member.” Currently, only 2 percent of BrightView’s female employees work on crews. “But we see a huge area of opportunity to grow our female workforce and provide opportunities for women.”

The GROW group also heard from their female employees that there are roles that, when held by a woman, achieve great success for the company. “Women in business typically wear a lot of hats and are crucial to our success—so how do we ensure there is a viable path for every woman in our organization?” says Kestyn.

Kestyn is encouraged by what local branches are already accomplishing on their own in terms of recruiting women. She relates how a female branch manager in the Midwest brought on a woman who had come out of a difficult personal situation, but who she saw great potential in and now is one of the branch’s most dedicated, hard-working employees. Many of these women are now rising within the ranks of their branches.

Though in place less than one year, GROW is actively taking on the challenge to attract, retain and promote more women in the company. Another of its first initiatives—a monthly newsletter—focuses on providing valuable information on a range of topics critical to women. It is distributed to the entire company and has received “overwhelming positive feedback” from both men and women.

Top leadership backs the GROW initiative. Some of the upcoming efforts include the first national meeting and additional groups to take on key stretch assignments for the company—such as developing a mentorship program, providing more programs (webinars, local events, etc.)—to reach even more women in the company.

Kestyn explains that caring for people is part of the culture. She also points out the new corporate reality since BrightView went public earlier this year is that shareholders have certain expectations and cultivating diversity is among them. “Being the largest landscape company in the country carries certain obligations as a leader in the industry,” she adds. The GROW initiative appears to be among them.

This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2018 issue of Colorado Green. See full issues of the magazine at www.alcc.com/cg.

Read more in this issue of Colorado Green NOW:
NALP 2018 Awards of Excellence included plenty of Colorado recognition
Colorado water conservation symposium to be held at Denver Botanic Gardens
Green roof ordinance may mean more cool roofs, not more green roofs
Video: Water-wise groundcover

 
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