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Why Diversity and Inclusion are Important to the Construction Industry

In today’s increasingly diverse and interconnected world, the importance of diversity and inclusion in every industry cannot be overstated. The construction industry, traditionally seen as a homogeneous and male-dominated field, is no exception.

As we move forward, it becomes crucial to understand why diversity and inclusion are not just buzzwords but essential components that contribute to the success and growth of the construction industry.

This article will look into the current state of diversity and inclusion in the construction sector, discuss its benefits, showcase how companies like ITS Building People are championing these values, and suggest how to improve diversity in construction by fostering inclusive principles. Read on to explore this vital aspect of modern business practice and learn why diversity and inclusion matter in the construction industry.

What Is the Current State of Diversity and Inclusion in the Construction Industry?

The construction industry has historically been perceived as a male-dominated sector. However, this perception is changing as more companies are recognising the value of diversity and inclusion.

Currently, women make up around 15% of the construction workforce across the United Kingdom, with even lower representation in managerial or executive roles. Similarly, people of Black, Asian and minority ethnic heritage, as well as those from different cultural backgrounds, are also underrepresented.

This lack of diversity is a result of numerous reasons, many of which point towards pre-existing prejudices. For example, when polled by Construction Manager Magazine, 73% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic students believed they would suffer discrimination in the workplace. Unfortunately, such concerns have historically been borne out, with 53% of workers claiming to have heard racist language used on UK construction sites in the last year.

Similar social barriers exist for women, too, with a lack of clear role models, lack of career progression and disrespectful work environments all cited as critical reasons for the disparity between male and female employment levels.

In terms of inclusion, the construction sector is making strides in creating inclusive workplaces where everyone feels valued, respected, and able to contribute their best. But there’s still a long way to go. Many construction companies are not yet fully inclusive, often due to entrenched biases, lack of awareness, or simply not knowing where to start.

As the industry grapples with skills shortages and an ageing workforce, the question of why diversity matters in the construction industry becomes more poignant from a business perspective as well as an ethical one. They offer a way to tap into a wider talent pool, bringing fresh perspectives and new approaches to problem-solving. Diversifying the workforce is no longer an option but a necessity for the construction industry to thrive in the 21st century.

A female construction worker consults a clipboard

The Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in the Construction Industry

Diversity and inclusion in the construction industry bring a host of benefits that can significantly enhance a company’s performance and competitiveness.

Firstly, a diverse workforce can help fill employment gaps in the construction industry. With the current skills shortage and an ageing workforce, the industry needs to access all available skills resources as quickly as possible. By welcoming people from diverse backgrounds, companies can access a broader range of skills and experiences, helping to address these gaps.

Secondly, diversity and inclusion foster engagement and improve company performance. Employees who feel included are likely to be more engaged and productive. A study by McKinsey & Co. found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

Thirdly, diversity and inclusion can lead to innovation and better problem-solving. Different perspectives can result in creative solutions and fresh ideas, driving innovation in construction methods and processes. A Harvard Business Review study found that diverse teams were able to solve problems faster than cognitively similar teams.

In essence, diversity and inclusion aren’t just about fairness and ethics; though these are important aspects, they’re potent catalysts for business growth and innovation in the construction industry.

How the Construction Industry Can Improve Diversity and Inclusion

When considering how to improve diversity in construction, strategic planning and commitment from all levels of an organisation is crucial. Here are some steps that companies can take to foster a more inclusive environment:

1. Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

The first step is to develop a clear strategy that outlines the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. This should include specific goals and objectives, as well as measures for tracking progress.

2. Training and Education

Regular training sessions can help employees understand the importance of diversity and inclusion. This can include unconscious bias training, cultural competency training, or workshops on inclusive communication.

3. Promote Inclusive Leadership

Leaders play a crucial role in fostering an inclusive culture. They should be trained to value diverse perspectives and encourage open communication. Inclusive leaders can set the tone for the entire organisation and can influence the behaviour of their teams.

4. Create Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

ERGs are groups of employees who come together based on shared characteristics or experiences, such as gender, race, or sexual orientation. These groups can provide support, enhance career development, and contribute to personal growth in the work environment.

Two construction workers of different backgrounds discuss a project

The Role of Recruitment in Promoting Diversity and Inclusion

Recruitment practices play a pivotal role when it comes to ways that the construction industry can improve its diversity. From practices to social engagement, here are some of the ways the construction industry can raise its game:

1. Diverse Recruitment Practices

Companies should aim to attract a diverse range of candidates for every role. This might involve advertising jobs in a variety of places, working with diverse recruitment agencies, or partnering with organisations that support underrepresented groups.

2. Inclusive Job Descriptions

Job descriptions should be written in a way that appeals to a broad range of candidates. Avoiding gendered language and stating clearly that the company values diversity and inclusion can help attract a diverse applicant pool.

3. Objective Selection Processes

Using structured interviews and standardised assessment tools can help reduce bias in the selection process. It’s also essential to have diverse interview panels.

4. Mentoring and Sponsorship

Once diverse employees are recruited, mentoring and sponsorship programs can help them grow and succeed within the company.

Diverse and Inclusive Construction Solutions with ITS: Building People

Are you ready to embrace diversity and inclusion in your construction company? ITS: Building People is here to support you. We’ve been at the forefront of the representative recruitment sector since our inception in 1973, working with main contractors, developers and sub-contractors across all parts of the built environment.

Take a look at our pledges to diversity and inclusion here, or get in touch for a more detailed conversation.

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