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Diversity in Construction: Where We Are, Where We Need to Go
Diversity and inclusion (D&I) has been a hot topic in the workplace as of late. For a plethora of reasons, businesses are becoming more active in their efforts to hire and work with a diverse group of people. Additionally, they’re educating their workforces about D&I by explaining why these efforts are both necessary and beneficial.
Construction is no exception to this trend. As the industry has been historically homogeneous throughout the years, it may even be beckoning these D&I programs.
So, how has the construction industry been adjusting, making room for people it may not have pursued in the past, and why is it making this effort?
Reasons for a Change
When people think of construction sites, there tends to be a generalized view of white men with a traditional boy’s club mentality. While that stereotype may have previously held some truth, times are clearly changing, and for the better.
As baby boomers in the industry begin to retire, the construction industry is experiencing a talent shortage. This shortage began with the recession, and will only continue to grow over the next decade. Therefore, construction businesses must start attracting more people than ever before by reaching out to groups of people that may not have been considered before.
In addition to filling the talent gap, we’ve seen that D&I leads to an increase in creativity in the workplace. We know that a group of similar people can fall into a groupthink mentality, so adding a new kind of voice to the mix can help businesses avoid this. As a result, firms have reported that increased D&I has led to increased performance and profitability.
Additionally, it goes without saying that including underrepresented groups in your business is simply the right thing to do.
Current State of D&I in Construction
While D&I programs have been popping up in recent years, construction still has a long way to go before it reaches equal representation in the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 9.9% of construction professionals are women.
In regard to race, 30.7% of professionals in the industry are Hispanic or Latino, 6.2% are black, and a staggering 2% are Asian.
While the US does not collect data of LGBTQI+ representation in the workforce, we can use data collected by the UK for reference. Across the pond, only 2% of the construction workforce are members of the LGBTQI+ community. What makes this statistic even more sobering is that over half of them reported they felt their identity kept them from progressing in their careers. Also, 71% of them said they “heard repeated LGBT-oriented insults at work.”
The Road Ahead
Clearly, we have a long way to go as a society as well as an industry. It is encouraging, however, that more senior leadership seems to be on board with D&I programs as time goes on. Research has shown that leadership embracing and championing these efforts makes them more successful.
More and more companies are implementing focus groups, training, mentoring, and networking programs, as well as unconscious bias training for new and existing employees. This creates a more open environment for people who are entering the workforce as a minority and helps them to feel comfortable and accepted.
Some larger firms are also forming relationships with Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) partners. As minority-owned businesses face additional roadblocks, having a relationship with other firms in the industry can help them to flourish.
Just as in any other industry, there is a long road ahead for construction firms seeking equal representation in their workforce. With the right mindset and programs, they can slowly make the progress they’re hoping for.