Welcome to the blog of Members’ Forum 2017.
What is Diversity all about, is it just political correctness?
To me Diversity is about celebrating our differences and being inclusive as an institute, an industry and as a society. By involving people from all backgrounds we create a rich seam of talent, with ideas and energy that match the broader population and our customer base.
Everyone deserves to have their talents recognised regardless of whether they are young , old, black white, able bodied or disabled, straight , gay , male or female. Our industry needs the best talent and ideas in order to create a great built environment. Those great ideas are not the reserve of white males , yet 89% of the people working in the industry in the UK are white males . The people leading our largest companies are …. You guessed it …… male and pale and some might say stale too. Despite legislation covering Equality in the UK going back to the 1970s , women are still a rare species in the boardrooms of UK Construction companies. As a teenage girl in the 1970s I believed that my gender would not hold me back in achieving my ambitions and as my chosen career path was in Education, it did not . However had I chosen engineering, construction or architecture I would have struggled to achieve a senior role.
Forty years on however I am tired of waiting for equality: women are not visible at senior levels in this industry and for the few that are visible there is a massive pay gap with male colleagues too. The Davies report recommended that Boards be balanced with 30% females. There is a danger in quotas and women want to be promoted on merit .Believe me no one wants to be the “token “ woman in the room . Positive discrimination is itself discriminatory and unlawful, however some companies such as Skanska are making real strides in creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace and I applaud them. They appreciate that diversity and inclusion is not some “nice to have” vision but a business critical aspect of their work. Ignoring half the available talent is not wise when faced with chronic skills shortages. Losing qualified women part way through their careers having invested in them, is a costly mistake, so flexible family friendly policies make much better sense.
I was privileged recently to judge the European Women in Construction and Engineering Awards and it is heartening to know that there is a wealth of young female talent coming up which will be ready for leadership roles within the next few years . The future of construction is digital and new roles are emerging that will be attractive to a broader range of people in the future, our industry needs to embrace diversity and inclusion as a business imperative if it is to compete for the best talent available .
Bridget ( tired of waiting ) Bartlett