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Black History Month: Diversity in Construction

Friday 1 October marks the start of Black History Month in the United Kingdom. The month is a time for us to both celebrate achievements within the black community, as well as educate the UK on black history. It’s also a time to reflect on diversity within the workplace, and in the construction industry, only 4% of workers are BAME which means there’s still a long way to go to increase diversity in our industry.

Diversity in Construction

Black History Month has been taking place since 1987 as a way of celebrating diversity throughout the UK. Not only is it a way of celebrating diversity, but it’s a time to educate the UK on the history of black culture here and throughout the world. Part of that education includes different industries looking at their own diversity and inclusivity, and whether or not this is a problem, or they’ve found a solution.

With BAME employees only making up 4% of the workforce in construction, education around diversity and inclusivity needs to take place in our industry. CHAS reviewed a recent study on racial equality in the construction industry and said that “education is key to promoting a more diverse workplace.”

The study that CHAS discussed found that there was a lack of diversity not just on-site, but in managerial and professional roles in construction. They also found differences in training experiences of minorities, continued observations of racism, and lack of monitoring equal opportunity policies. This lack of diversity on construction sites across the UK and the problems associated with that are relatively unchanged from a study done in 1999.

Moving Forward

With little changes made in the last 20 plus years, how does our industry change and move forward?

CHAS has suggested a buddy system with new recruits to promote allyship on-site. They’ve also suggested a “No Bystanders” policy, which some companies have started to adopt. This was started to support the LGBTQ+ community as a way of encouraging people to intervene if they saw inappropriate behaviour or language being used and is something that should be adopted across the board.

Charles Egbu, who is the president of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), has called on managers and boards to take the lead and for people in the industry to be more proactive. He told Construction Manager Magazine, “I want CEOs, COOs and MDs to consider setting aspirational goals (not quotas or targets) treating diversity as an opportunity to create organisations that people want to work for, not a risk management issue.”

Discussions around diversity in the workplace are not new for the construction industry, but a change is clearly necessary to ensure BAME workers are better represented and feel more comfortable on-site. Having a more diverse construction industry is something that will be beneficial to everyone, and there are signs that progress is being made. But that progress will need to continue across the board for real change to be seen, and for diversity in the construction industry to catch up with other industries across the UK.

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