Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) have become a frequent topic of conversation in the workplace recently—and for good reason. Michael Page's recent Talent Trends survey revealed only 32% of respondents considered their workplace inclusive, emphasizing the need for change. More sobering statistics regarding DE&I include:

  • 28% have been discriminated against at some point in their career, 11% of which said it occurred in their current role.
  • 59% were discriminated against due to age.
  • 44% were discriminated against due to race.
  • 38% were discriminated against due to gender.
  • 17% were discriminated against due to a disability.

Just as shocking, over half of respondents (64%) didn’t report their experiences of discrimination out of fear of reprisal or a lack of trust that any meaningful action would take place.

Such statistics have motivated employers to increase their efforts to hire and work with a diverse group of people. Just as importantly, organizations also seek to educate their workforce about DE&I and its significance in an industry that has been historically homogenous. 

So, how has the construction industry adjusted to accommodate people it may not have pursued or been open to in the past—and why is this inclusivity important? 

Reasons for a change 

As seasoned workers begin to retire, with more than 1 in 5 construction workers over 55 years old, the construction industry is experiencing a severe talent shortage, a decline that started during the 2008 economic recession and accelerated due to the pandemic. As a result, leaders in construction must consider strategies to attract more people than ever before, even those they may have previously overlooked. 

In addition to filling the talent gap, research shows that DE&I leads to an increase in creativity in the workplace on account of a wider range of backgrounds and perspectives—a discovery more prevalent than ever due to the five-generation workforce. As a result, companies have reported that increased DE&I has led to enhanced performance and profitability

Finally, the most important reason the construction industry is looking to become more diverse is to include underrepresented groups, providing them with more employment opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have. 

Current state of DE&I in Construction

While more DE&I programs have emerged in recent years, construction still has a long way to go before it reaches equal representation in the workforce. With an age gap wider than sixty years, ageism is most frequently experienced, especially in Construction, where 73% said they have been subjected to unfair treatment due to their age. 

Faced with mounting pressures, many sponsors for construction apprentice programs are unsure how to recruit members of underrepresented groups. This uncertainty is emphasized by the stats: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10.8% of construction professionals are women. Regarding race, 30.7% of professionals in the industry are Hispanic or Latino, 6.7% are black, and a staggering 1.7% are Asian. 

The road ahead

After years of a largely homogenous workforce, diversity in the construction industry has a long way to go. Fortunately, those in charge want to prioritize their DE&I initiatives and make up for lost time. 

Now, more construction companies are implementing focus groups, mentoring, and networking programs, as well as unconscious bias training for new and existing employees. Some other effective strategies for leaders to incorporate include maintaining authenticity, directly addressing disparities, and continuously educating themselves. In doing so, firms foster a more open environment for minorities entering the workforce, helping them feel comfortable and accepted. 

Access our Talent Trends report to learn more insights about DE&I. 

Some larger firms are also forming relationships with Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) partners. As minority-owned construction businesses face additional roadblocks, having connections with other firms in the industry can help them to flourish. While there is a long road ahead for construction companies seeking equal representation in their workforce, creating a plan and executing it with persistence will pave the way for progress.

How can Michael Page help? Looking to create a diverse workforce? Upload a job description or request a call back to discuss your hiring needs with one of our expert recruitment consultants.

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