On 23rd June a host of experts from throughout the industry joined Construction Cast for a brief look at the subject of diversity. We commenced with a brief discussion around COVID-19. Speakers looked at some of the positive aspects of the lockdown and the good things to come out of the crisis. However, we quickly moved on to the business of the day. Speakers for the day included Bola Abisogun OBE, Theresa Mohammed, Diana Chrouch, and Alan McKenzie.
To open, Diana highlighted some troubling statistics of the low number of people from minority ethnic backgrounds in construction. She noted that the removal of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol was perhaps symbolic of the struggle people face. People feel disempowered and marginalised in decision making. Whilst she certainly wouldn’t encourage lawlessness, the ‘placemaking’ concepts we espouse as an inclusive society are not reflected by the presence of symbols effectively representing the death of millions of African people. We need to consider the effects of such symbols on people around us.
Workshops and Support Networks
Alan from BDP has worked for many large practices. Workshops and forums established by some of these businesses are excellent. To foster inclusiveness in work, an open forum across the entire business is important. Bringing people together to formulate ideas and improve job fulfilment is key to engendering inclusivity.
Looking at the law, Theresa of Trowers & Hamlins looked at a recent report that highlighted the poor representation of minority groups in the legal sector. Theresa commented that while good work exists, more is yet to happen. The black solicitors’ network has produced an open letter that people should review if possible. Get involved with groups offering support to ensure a more diverse engagement.
Call Out and Drive Change
Annie observes that Bola is not afraid to call out areas where improvement is needed. Whether you’re young or old or experience or not, people should not be afraid to be bold. Highlight where inequalities exist, and ensure that people are made aware of the need for change. Diversity and inclusion are not things that should be optional, they are mandatory – why would you not want a more diverse inclusive industry and society?
Alan’s point on role models and normalising diversity is that people need to see the success stories of the future. Alan mentioned the ‘United Colours of Benetton‘ – celebrated differences. We shouldn’t be trying to merge things but ideally should be looking to celebrate all the different and colourful things that exist in society. Alan also notes the importance of not associating black people with trauma. Celebrate achievements rather than sympathising with problems perhaps.
How Can Allies Help?
As a white person – if you acknowledge your position and role being able to effect change. The BLM movement has highlighted that there really is only one race. It is odd to Diana that in 2020 we still discuss issues of race when we are all part of the human race. Similar to Alan, Diana suggests there really needs to be an open conversation, for people to come together and agree an action plan to really make a change and difference to the industry and society as a whole. She notes that we should be ‘taking a knee’ and joining in unity with our fellow men and women.