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NASCC 2024

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Industry Celebrates Diversity and Equity at Elevate

More than 530 Steel Conference attendees gathered Wednesday night for the annual Elevate reception, a space for allies across all avenues of the steel industry to celebrate workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion and share resources for continued progress.


Attendees connected over drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and a lively dance floor at San Antonio’s historic 1902 Nightclub. Jennie Traut-Todaro, AISC’s workforce development director and the orchestrator of Elevate, said she was thrilled by the turnout and pleasantly surprised by the energy that filled every corner of the room.


“It was great to see people enjoying themselves and clearly feeling like they belonged--which is the whole point of the event,” Traut-Todaro said. “Our attendees surprised me. In my head, engineers are very introverted, and I definitely wouldn’t think of them as dancers!”


This year’s featured speaker, Aurora Change Agency’s Shani Dellimore Barrax, shared thought-provoking insights on culture-add versus culture-fit approaches to hiring. If a firm is stagnant, Barrax said, take a look at their diversity--hiring to fit the existing company culture leaves no room for fresh perspectives or new opportunities. Breaking away from the monoculture, on the other hand, is what allows a company to grow--and growing pains are a positive thing.


“You have to normalize discomfort,” Barrax said. “The reason there’s been pushback on DEI is that it’s uncomfortable for some people, but the people affected are uncomfortable, too. The least you can do is be uncomfortable for a hot minute compared to the people dealing with that all the time.”


Barrax’s message and the night’s uplifting atmosphere were very well received, Traut-Todaro said. Attendees taking a break from dancing the night away shared thoughtful questions, meaningful takeaways, and action plans for building more diverse, equitable, and inclusive spaces for their employees.


“I got some great questions--people were very interested and excited to see all of the people who want to make this positive change for AEC industries to be more inclusive and more intentional about making people feel like they belong here,” Traut-Todaro said.


Do you know a great speaker, or are you interested in sponsoring next year’s Elevate reception? Please contact trauttodaro@aisc.org.


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