The construction industry is still the most white-male dominated sector in the UK. Learn what can be done to increase diversity and inclusiveness, and why it’s important to take action!
Recent events around the world gave rise to the global debate about inequality and prejudice. The construction industry currently goes under many challenges, including labor shortage and could undoubtedly benefit with bigger diversity and inclusiveness. Although many companies in the UK improved their policies over the last decade, research shows that construction is still the most white-male-dominated sector in the UK. Taking active actions to make construction an attractive job opportunity for skilled women and BAME (Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities) workers is not only the right thing to do but also a necessity, that the industry can profit from.
According to the UK's Government data, 14% of the working-age population comes from the BAME background and only 6% of those employed in the construction. In the case of women, meanwhile they are 51% of the population, in the sector only 15% is female. This statistic shows that the industry is unrepresentative of the UK population as well as it is also missing out on many talented people.
Let's have a look at what are the barriers that keep women and minorities away from the construction industry, what is their situation in the workplace and how to make this situation better - for them and for your company!
Image and Representativity
The construction industry, especially site-workers, are perceived as having a persistent "laddish" culture in a white, male-dominated environment. This image can directly adversely affect recruitment. Because they do not see similar faces and references there, they do not see themselves in this industry, leading to unconscious disencourage.
Prejudice and Rejection Perception
There is, unfortunately, a strong perception that ethnic minorities and women will face rejection in the recruitment and on field in construction firms. The research published in Construction Manager Magazine found out that 73% of students believed BAMEs would suffer prejudice in the workplace.Moreover, several studies have reported that ethnic minority graduates are less successful in gaining employment in the construction industry than their white counterparts. They need to make significantly more applications before attending interviews, despite being just as qualified as their fellow graduates.
Favoritism in the Recruitment
Some studies show that it is common in the construction industry, to favour those looking for a job with family members or friends already linked to the company. This practice makes it a lot harder for people without this kind of connection.
It is harder for BAMEs and women to progress to higher positions, and not only because of biased decision-making when it comes to promotions. These workers are given less responsibility, less opportunity to show their potential. BAMEs feel they have to work harder than their white counterparts to be recognised as valuable employees. Additionally, it may happen that the BAME and female employees would experience being ignored, not being invited to events or being closely monitored, which create a hostile and unwelcoming working environment.
A survey published by Construction Industry Training Board has found that racist comments are still quite often heard on the UK construction sites. It revealed that racist language had been heard by 53% of workers within the last year, with 14% hearing it in the previous week.
In the times of labour and skills shortage, we as an industry need new committed employees. It is high time to focus not only on attracting "usual" potential candidates but also on women and ethnic minorities who can bring their skills and talent to the Construction Industry. Moreover, The UK's population is predicted to become more and more ethnically diverse. With the BAME population likely to be a source of significant future revenue, the inclusion of BAME employees is essential for the industry. The diverse workforce is not only crucial to attract possible employees from different ethnic backgrounds and genders, but it is also more attractive to the diverse client base. Here are some ways of embracing these changes for the market, the workforce and your company’s benefit:
Identify The Systemic Racism and Prejudice in The Workplace
It is uncomfortable as it is crucial to acknowledge this problem and welcome changes in the industry. As we can not address an issue that we do not see, identification is the first step, so that based on it you can choose the best solutions for it. We must become anti-racist to successfully reform our company's strategies, workplace and educate others. You do not want to lose great employees because they feel unwelcome by their peers.
Invest in Equity the Workplace and Recruitment
Ensure equal pay and equal opportunities for everyone regardless of their gender or ethnicity. Reach out to schools and colleges to showcase the modern construction industry for all. We need to make it visible that we strive to be a more inclusive and diverse industry, supporting these new groups to the industry to see themselves there. Show that your company cares for diversity and you will find an increase in the applications for your open positions.
Educate Your Employers
We cannot blame people for not knowing how to act towards someone they have never worked with before. We need to organise real-life training, not only on-demand online courses, to teach how to act in a respectful way and break down the taboos and the common misconceptions. Construction sites need to increase cultural awareness and be educated that 'site banters' are unacceptable. Going further, encouraging your employees to exchange experiences about their cultures could raise awareness and also support this effort for better integration, respect and less discrimination. It is important to let them have a day off when there is an important celebration in their culture or religion. Maybe we could consider honouring their biggest holidays of BAME.
We can learn from female and minority professionals who have succeeded in the industry. Promote the role models to increase the interest in the sector and your employees' aspirations. It must follow with making sure that these professionals are not excluded from upper-level management due to prejudice bias. Lead by Example is a campaign created by Archdesk to work on this field, encouraging women in the construction.
Provide Visual Representativity
Your company communications can ensure diverse individuals in ads, website, social media posts and other corporate materials. We must support the building of a new image of the construction industry in society's consciousness. Exposition to a specific message will bring that kind of shift in the perception of the construction industry over time.
Let us embrace the changes and hope that the construction industry wakes up on this matter as a whole. For the lasting change, the first step is in our way of thinking and acting. Put your company in the forefront by taking the right actions to make our workspaces are diverse and welcoming for all and you will all benefit from it with more happier and loyal workers.
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