What’s the current state of diversity in construction?

Diversity construction Ellis Fox

The construction sector has often come under fire for the gender pay gap and lack of diversity within the industry, as well as the lack of progress in this regard. The response of many construction professionals is somewhat defensive, citing that it isn’t a true reflection of what’s happening in the industry. What is the truth?

There are many women holding senior positions in construction, but the numbers don’t lie. Women are still very much in the minority on all levels of the industry and while they may be increasing, it’s at snail’s pace.  It’s similar status for racial diversity. In this article we take a look at where things are at, what is changing in terms of diversity in construction as well as what still needs to happen to create a more inclusive industry.

Current diversity status

A 2021 special report on diversity and inclusion compiled by the CIOB, shows the lack of diversity in construction. Less than 3% are part of the LBGTQ+ community, only 5%-7% are Black, Asian or from other minority groups, and only 12% women. On site women make up only 1% to 2% of the workforce.

One factor that appears to stand out is the high dropout rate. There is a diverse mix of people studying engineering, construction, town planning, quantity surveying and landscaping, but only a small percentage enter the industry workforce. More concerning is that if they do enter the workforce, they don’t seem to stay. This highlights that the major challenge could be culture rather than industry related.

Transitioning to action

Collectively, several industry organizations have made a commitment to proactively drive diversity in construction and related sectors. Part of the plan is to collect data to try understand why diversity remains low as well as collectively establishing ways to reduce bias and foster more inclusivity on all levels. There is the realisation that this goes beyond idealism. Studies on diversity globally and across all industry sectors highlights that there is a strong business case for it.

The way of doing business is rapidly evolving and the pace of change is accelerating. This means that businesses that fail to adapt and stick to old school business models will struggle to compete in the new marketplace. Key to keeping up is an innovation mindset. Diversity is the enabler of innovation. That’s why it matters to construction.