In order to attract, retain and develop top talent, the construction industry must be willing to work toward a more inclusive environment. Construction Inclusion Week seeks to help build that foundation.
Let’s face it, even after intense efforts at change, there is still a common misperception that the construction industry is made up of a bunch of white men in hard hats and safety vests walking around with shovels in their hands. While we all know this is no longer accurate, there is an aspect of this stereotype that hasn’t substantially changed.
While it varies by region, the largest percentage of the workforce on U.S. construction sites continues to consist of male Caucasians. In “Diversity in Construction: Where We Are, Where We Need to Go” (https://bit.ly/3E2rVaZ), global professional recruitment consultancy Michael Page cites the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that only 9.9% of construction professionals are women; 30.7% are Hispanic or Latino; 6.2% are black, and a mere 2% are Asian. And while the U.S. doesn’t collect data on LGBTQI+ representation, UK data shows they make up only 2% of the construction workforce in that region.
Clearly, construction is lagging when you take into account the racial and gender mix of the U.S. workforce, as well as the emphasis placed on diversity and inclusion (D&I) within other industries. There are a number of factors behind this, including a lack of relevant initiatives among construction employers. While this is changing, there is work to be done.
Beyond any altruistic and even political aspects behind D&I initiatives, there is a business case for implementing a program within your organisation. According to a 2018 report by McKinsey, gender and ethnic diversity can be clearly correlated with profitability. Firms with diverse executive teams were shown to be up to 33% more likely to outperform their competitors financially.
“D&I initiatives can also deliver intangibles such as innovative ideas and creative problem-solving,” writes Cathy Chatfield-Taylor in the article “Workforce Diversity in Construction Improves Productivity and Profits” (Redshift.autodesk.com). “Diverse perspectives quash companies’ tendencies to do things the way they’ve always been done and reduce the risk of groupthink.”
The article goes on to quote Jennifer Suerth, vice president of technical services at Pepper Construction Company, who predicts the industry will see an increase in productivity as diversity increases due to the new ideas that will be brought forward.
Consortium Places A Spotlight on Inclusion
A growing number of companies and industry leaders are not only embracing but championing D&I initiatives. A clear example is a Time for Change consortium, founded in 2020 by six like-minded general contractors seeking to evolve the overall makeup of the construction workforce.
Gilbane, DPR, Turner Construction, Mortenson, McCarthy and Clark Construction formed the consortium with the objective of identifying ways to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within the industry. On its website, the consortium notes it recognises and understands that companies in construction “may be at different places in their diversity, equity and inclusion journeys.” As such, it launched the inaugural Construction Inclusion Week to foster conversations that can help take them further down that path.
Taking place from October 18 to 22, the week-long program will follow the theme “Building the Foundation for Inclusion”. Its website provides access to relevant materials and resources, as well as suggests daily themes to encourage discussions between teams and within organisations.
“Construction Inclusion Week will build awareness, celebrate diversity, equity, and inclusion while providing educational and business resources for our industry,” Mortenson points out in its statement on the program. “By working together, learning from one another, and having consistent commitments and actions towards maintaining a safe and inclusive work environment – free of harassment, hate, or bigotry of any kind and where every individual belongs – Construction Inclusion Week will effect positive change in the industry for generations of workers to come.”
Robby Moser, president and CEO, Clark Construction, sees the week as “a unique opportunity to leverage our collective voices and resources to identify and solve key industry and societal challenges.” He adds, “Clark is honoured to be part of this industry-wide journey to build and foster a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion, where our people and communities can thrive.”
Turner Construction Company views participation in the program as an opportunity to learn from each other and “speak with one voice.” “Through collaboration, proactive engagement, and deliberate actions, Turner will effect positive change where people celebrate and embrace diversity, foster inclusion, and where equity is apparent,” the company commented in a press release announcing the program.
The larger goal is to build a workplace environment that can attract the best and brightest from all aspects of society. As the Construction Inclusion Week website points out, the industry must be willing to grow its culture to become truly inclusive “if we genuinely want to attract, retain and develop the best talent for our industry and maximise the diversity of our suppliers.”
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