Last year, Linda Dorcena Forry went from being a rare person of color in the Massachusetts senate to being a rare person of color—and a rare woman—in the construction industry. Chief executive John Fish of Suffolk Construction—the state’s largest public contractor—tapped her to become vice president of diversity, inclusion and community for the Northeast. Nearing the one-year mark of her employment, she chatted with us about the industry that nationally is nearly 90 percent male and white.

How’s the first year at Suffolk? It’s been very exciting. … John and his whole team have been focusing on people and really putting in the time and the energy on building the staff with education and training. More importantly, we know that to transform and innovate, you need people from various backgrounds, people who come with different experiences and different lenses.

Nationally, construction still has a poor record of diversity. No doubt, the construction industry has a lot of work to do. And we know that. But that is something that this company has been focusing on. … We recognize and appreciate people’s gender differences, ethnicity, being veterans. … We’ve been taking the lead in saying that this is where construction needs to be.

How can the image of the industry change? Builders are still portrayed as guys in hard hats catcalling women. The construction industry and the sector have come a long way. … We have a number of women who are on the operations side, are superintendents, are on the work sites and are really working collaboratively with men. … We have our core values: We want people who are passionate, professional, who are hardworking, have integrity and—most importantly—are caring. And caring is not catcalling.

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