GUEST ARTICLE – Breaking ground: equality and diversity in the construction industry

  • 19 Oct 2018

Nick Conway, Managing Director at ITC, takes a look at the practical steps those in construction can take to improve equality and diversity in our industry. 

With the UK’s evolving culture and environments, we are living in an age where inclusion and understanding of one another is continuously increasing. Yet, many industries are still working to diversify their companies’ culture. Equality isn’t a problem to solve, but an emerging social norm that brings about better working and social environments. To change the landscape, we need to showcase accessible opportunities and advantages of careers in construction to attract a diverse range of demographics.

Embracing each other’s differences and collaborating, strengthens teams planning, problem-solving and communication. At ITC, we believe in our people, our work and being better, so we regularly ask ourselves; What actions can be taken to improve equality and diversity in our industry?

1. Open up communication

One key way to promote equality in the workplace is to ensure there are open lines of internal communication and that everyone in the team feels empowered to have their views heard. It’s important to listen to the first-hand experience of team members who have encountered issues of equality or who have ideas of where and how the industry can progress. Having a leadership team who are accessible and approachable is vital in order to use the experiences of all to make the industry a fairer place. Prioritising internal communication is key to the work at ITC.

Equality is a sector-wide issue and, as such, is something we can only truly address together. Sharing ideas and being inspired by others as we all push for progress is vital if we’re to see change at the speed that’s required. Equality isn’t an area of competition, but collaboration: we need to learn from each other.

2. Invest in young people

Young people are the future, and this cliché is true for our sector. It’s an industry where, of those born in the UK, 30% of employees are over 50. This means we need to invest in gaining the interest of the next generation if want our area to grow and develop.

Higher education costs often act as barriers for many prospective students – either in entering the industry or increasing in levels of seniority. At ITC we’ve made funding education a key part of our strategy by helping ten team members through university whilst working for us. 

Investing in young people isn’t all about funding for higher education. Work experience and apprenticeships are vital ways of opening up and demystifying our sector to men and women from all backgrounds. We’ve had a number of students complete their work experience with us and get a taste of life in construction. Showcasing the many different roles and skills within our industry while challenging pre-conceptions.

3. Everyone is an ambassador

Every member of your company is an ambassador for the industry, helping redefine public perception and demonstrate that it’s not just about hard hats. Promoting the variety of work available in the sector is vital in improving equality and diversity, as sharing knowledge opens up the sector to those who may never have previously considered a construction career.

There are, of course, some more quantifiable ways of being an industry ambassador. Our Business Development Manager Becky Cheney is a member of the Association of Women in Property, sitting on their South East Committee. This role sees her support students in industry workshops, giving advice and helping them find internships and graduate jobs, and Becky has also written about what our sector can do to address the gender imbalance.

4. Care

This is the least tangible of the steps I’ve suggested, but it’s by no means the least important. It’s easy to tell if a company truly cares about its team as well as making a difference in the industry. It’s believing that true success stems from your people, not projects, which will allow wholehearted commitment to the pursuit of equality.

Here at ITC, we’re honoured to be industry recognised through awards for our work, but what we’re perhaps most proud of is the feedback we received from Investors in People, when they certified us as Gold standard, last year. 

And they’re the values which are required for a more equal and diverse industry.

Hard work, honesty and trust? The cement we’ll need to build towards a fairer future.

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