Women on top: Uribe & Schwartzkopf’s women in the workplace goals


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It’s a sunny morning in Quito, one of those bright mornings that reminds you that the city lies in the heart of the Andes, not far off the snows of the capital’s surrounding peaks. We’re 21 floors up above the city and La Carolina extends to our east and north, its trees seeming like bushes from our lofty heights.

A group of women pose among the worksite and still-bare concrete. The construction of ONE is still a few months from completion. Among them is Lilia Ñaniña. She’s been working on Uribe & Schwartzkopf building sites for nearly a decade. She began preparing meals as a contractor on the site, then became a lowly ayudante helper, in charge of sweeping and light work carried out by the men.

Today, she’s one of the company’s cohort of Industrial Safety Officers, enjoying a much better wage, stable employment and better prospects for her and her family. She seems very happy with her progress. “I never expected to get involved with industrial safety,” she admits, “but the company has recognized our skills as women and our willingness to learn, and now I’m delighted.”

“We want our clients to know that they are investing in buildings that have not only been built to the highest construction and environmental norms, but also under healthy, equitable social conditions.”

Uribe & Schwartzkopf have taken the role of women in the workplace seriously ever since its inception in 1973, claims its President, Tommy Schwartzkopf. He says they’re currently reforming their statutes to include equal opportunities at its core. But the reality has nonetheless been challenging for the company that currently has 10 projects in Quito, employing some 25,000 people directly and indirectly.

A turnabout in its objectives and ambitions began in 2017, when it launched a campaign to tackle the on-site verbal abuse that women had historically suffered. A campaign was put into place, with workshops focusing on respect and consideration for co-workers, and informative panels plastered on walls across their sites. The results were very encouraging: women reported that they felt safer and were suffering less verbal abuse than before.

Parallel to these efforts in the workplace, Uribe & Schwartzkopf had begun to recognize the skills of women as industrial safety officers. By all accounts, they are more detail-orientated and put safety first more than their male counterparts. The slogan “No por tí, por tu familia” (“Not for you, but for your family”) resonated well, according to Sandra Guamán, who has worked for U&S for over six years. She’s led dozens of industrial safety classes. “The men who don’t pay attention or take the courses seriously get 500 lines to copy out!” she laughs.

The company formed brigades for industrial safety, which today number 43 members in total. These groups have been hugely effective in bringing down the number of industrial accidents on the company’s sites. In fact, they haven’t suffered a single serious accident for the last two years.

“We want to employ people for their abilities, not for their gender. I love visiting the sites and seeing how the women are now integral to our projects. It’s not only positive for us, it’s positive for Quito and for Ecuador.” says Tommy Schwartzkopf.

“We already have more women in the company than men,” states Tommy. “Nearly half of our architects are women, and they make up the majority of the interior design, human resources, communications and marketing departments, for instance.” The company has challenged itself to reach 10% of the construction site workforce by the end of 2019. In Ecuador in general, women don’t number 1%.

“We’re confident we’ll achieve our goal. Technology is replacing the more physical tasks of a work site, meaning more women can play roles that would have been considered too tough for them in the past”.

Our new “Mujeres de Altura” campaign, will also be key to achieving our goals. We’ve already registered 850 low-income and/or vulnerable women applicants.”

“I’m confident more women will enter workplaces previously believed to be the exclusive realm of men. We’re demonstrating that women can get the job done, often better than men, in areas like safety, paintwork and interior design,” says Tommy. The company is also showing it takes its social and environmental impacts seriously, with the World Bank’s EDGE environmental certification and its B-Certification process.

“By working with the top architects in the world, like Jean Nouvel and Moshe Safdie,” says the company’s President, “we’ve had to elevate the bar in terms of how we work. We’re bringing the best international practices to Ecuador and the results are hugely encouraging for all of our workforce, and of course, for women.”

The Mujeres de Altura campaign, launched in early 2019, encourages women to apply for jobs at Uribe & Schwartzkopf. The program focuses on helping women without previous construction project experience in vulnerable situations or facing economic challenges, in particular. For more information, see www.mujeresdealtura.com.


Uribe & Schwartzkopf

Moreno Bellido 200 y Av. Amazonas, Quito.

(+593-2) 255 7100 / 256 8100



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