Mark Harrison: The need for a more diverse construction industry

Mark Harrison: The need for a more diverse construction industry

Mark Harrison

Typically, the construction industry has been a male-dominated world with little to no provisions for women, people of certain faiths or those with disabilities, but times are changing, writes CIOB’s Mark Harrison.

I was appointed the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) first Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in 2021 with the aim of supporting the industry we represent to become a more diverse and welcoming community.

It’s only right that the organisations responsible for creating our built environment represent the communities who will use them, but beyond this, having a diverse pool of professionals on any project will for sure increase creativity, productivity and, in turn, client satisfaction.

The construction industry not only needs to move on from its ‘men only’ image but desperately needs to recruit and retain more skilled workers at all levels, and in my view, there are large groups of talented people out there we’re missing out on because they don’t see our sector as being for them, and for their sake and that of constructors and society, this needs to change.

Shortly after I joined CIOB we launched our Diversity & Inclusion charter which asks businesses to sign up to five key commitments to foster a more diverse and inclusive workspace. They are purposefully tailorable to any size of organisation and environment to facilitate maximum participation and acknowledge that not all firms have the same resources to dedicate to the cause. In October this year, we reached a major milestone when Laing O’Rourke became the 100th company to sign the charter, but there is still so much to do.

GRAHAM is delivering a diverse range of projects throughout Scotland across a range of sectors including healthcare, Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA), Build to Rent (BTR), education and commercial. The organisation signed the charter in November 2021 and Hollie Cregan, Head of Equality, Diversity & Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) told us: “Fostering equality, diversity and inclusion is integral to our operations. Partnering with like-minded organisations is important to ensure that inclusion is at the forefront of our agenda, hence why we signed the CIOB D&I Charter.

“Key to a diverse and inclusive workforce is consistently learning and sharing knowledge with our people and our partners. I was appointed into the new role as Head of Equality, Diversity & FIR in June 2022 and I am proud to help drive a number of related activities within the business.

“Some of our successes this year include the recruitment of more than 100 FIR ambassadors, launching the Women at GRAHAM network and establishing a dedicated menopause policy which supports colleagues through this stage of their life, amongst others.

“The CIOB D&I Charter is an excellent initiative that is welcomed by the industry, creating a force for good in our mission to create inclusive workforces where everyone enjoys the same opportunities.”

Alongside the Charter, CIOB conducted research into EDI in 2021 and our findings continue to help shape the EDI agenda. The Scottish Construction Leadership Forum’s (CLF) Construction Equity and Inclusion Plan, released in September this year, referenced our report several times. Having the need to act on this important subject recognised at government level is a real positive and we look forward to working further with the CLF as we strive to improve diversity in the sector.

In July CIOB, alongside five other professional bodies, launched a 45-point action plan to jointly improve EDI. The action plan has been developed by a dedicated working group, with representatives from:   

  • The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)  
  • The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) 
  • The Landscape Institute (LI) 
  • The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)  
  • The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)  
  • The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) 

The current priority for the group is to agree on a set of consistent core questions and data points to collect, alongside consistent messaging to encourage our collective membership to share demographic data. This will enable organisations to publish data on the diversity of membership in a cohesive manner by April 2024, thereby formulating a clear picture across the built environment to identify gaps and inform targeted actions. Other actions include consulting with students and industry graduates and assessing training needs with a goal of creating a consistent core EDI curricular for the collective membership by February 2024.

It’s clear communication and collaboration is key if the industry is to keep moving forward with EDI, which is why CIOB will be hosting its first EDI Conference on November 15, 2022. The online event will be a global gathering of experts in the field of EDI who will be sharing stories of ‘what works’ and provide examples of best practice and solutions to common barriers to fairness, inclusion and belonging.

As one of the speakers at the event I’m excited to have the opportunity to share CIOBs work with a global audience hopefully help facilitate conversation which will help the construction industry across the world truly represent the people it builds for.

More details of the event can be found on the events page of the CIOB website.

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