The conclusion of a recent high-level discussion attended by well-known champions of diversity in construction was that, despite a clear business case for a more diverse workforce, the industry still lacks the understanding and leadership required to address inequality.
Brought together to form the UK Construction Week Diversity Advisory Group, the panel confronted the major barriers and challenges the industry faces in bridging the diversity gap.
With a firm commitment to encouraging the cultural shift that is much needed in the industry, the lessons learned from the panel discussion will shape the agenda for the event in October – ensuring that construction professionals at all levels are equipped to embrace diversity and other challenges, turning them instead into positive opportunities.
Two interesting schools of thought emerged around tackling the issue at grassroots versus leadership from the top. Much of the discussion centred around reputation and the difficulties we face in attracting any youngsters into the construction industry – and particularly girls and ethnic minorities.
Sarah Davis, CEO of Skills4Stem, felt that we needed to start early – at the age of five or six, when children are first gaining an opinion on what they want to be when they grow up.
Bridget Bartlett, deputy chief executive of the CIOB, cited poor careers guidance as another limiting factor and felt more needed to be done by the industry to educate and excite youngsters about a career in construction.
Other key topics of discussion questioned whether ‘women’ orientated groups were actually detrimental; whether companies should place an importance on sponsors and mentors, and the role that rising stars play when it comes to promoting role models and encouraging young people.
The panel concluded that UK Construction Week could provide a fantastic opportunity for organisations to come together and strengthen the currently fragmented approach.
Richard Morey, group events director at Media 10, the company behind UK Construction Week, commented: “The discussion highlighted a need for the industry to come together and start tackling the issue of diversity as one. There are some great initiatives and some leading thinkers in the area but we’ve still got a long way to go.”