The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion

In 2020, diversity, equity, and inclusion became topics of utmost importance in the workplace and beyond. In addition to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the United States was faced with a crisis on our own home turf. The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, among others, sparked national debate and outrage concerning racism in our country. In the middle of state-mandated lockdowns, citywide protests broke out, emphasizing people’s desire for change. This trickled down into many areas of life and business. Companies began to reevaluate the diversity of their workforce and how they went about their hiring practices. Buzzwords like “unconscious bias” became more and more prevalent phrases in media and boardroom meetings. 

The conversation around D&I in the workforce is more than a trend. It is important for companies to seriously look into their existing workforce and their hiring practices to make sure there are no unconscious biases and they have the best team for the job.

So what is an unconscious bias? According to the University of California at San Francisco, this is defined as “social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing”. Since most people don’t realize they have these biases, they are implicit versus explicit and manifest in subtle ways. For example, gravitating toward people with names that are easier to pronounce while looking at job applications is an example of an unconscious bias. 

As the labor market continues to tighten and the economy remains uncertain, addressing these unconscious biases is important to optimize talent management. 

Diversity in the Construction Industry 

So how does this relate to the construction industry? Leadership within the construction sector has been historically homogenous, while the boots-on-the-ground workers have been made up of a more diverse group. 

Some D&I statistics for this industry remain lower than the national average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 30.7% of those in the industry are Hispanic. African Americans, who amount to some 12% of the US workforce, comprised only 6.2% of all construction workers in 2018. Asians make up about 6% of the workforce but only 2% of construction workers. Women, who according to the US Department of Labor amount to 47% of the workforce, fill only 9.9% of construction jobs. This last statistic in particular reflects the male-dominated nature of this industry. 

Some statistics indicate a high correlation between corporate diversity and business performance. Forbes indicates a 19% increase in revenue for more diverse companies. According to Glassdoor, 67% of candidates say a company’s diversity statistics are important to them. A study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that gender-diverse companies are likely to perform 15% better than gender-homogeneous companies. 

The percentage of LGBTQ construction workers remains unknown, but we can assume that there are proportionally fewer members of the LGBTQ community in construction than in the US population. (A recent study in the UK found that only 2% of the construction workforce belongs to the LGBTQ community).

Women in Construction 

Even though statistics indicate that there are fewer women in the construction industry than others on average, we are seeing an emergence of women and millennials in this field as the year’s progress. Women are quickly taking on roles as project managers, EHS managers, and even executive positions across the construction industry. Their impact is broad, bringing in much-needed perspective, adopting more advanced technologies, and improving productivity across the board. 

Do one major issue women face in this field? Perception. Historically, this has been a heavily male-dominated field. Organizations like Women Construction Owners and Executives (WCOE) are changing the game, helping create opportunities for women to influence legislation and support more women owned-construction companies. This organization, and others like it, are changing the game.

One serious plus? There is significantly less of a pay gap between men and women in construction than the national average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in the U.S. earn roughly 82% percent of what men earn. The gender pay gap in the construction industry is much narrower. On average, women in construction earn 99.1% percent of what men make.

This is a huge draw for anyone wanting a job. Transparency, equity, and diversity should be a draw for applicants in any field. 

How D&I Can Positively Impact Your Jobsite 

A McKinsey Survey in May of 2020 found that nearly two-thirds of respondents believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the industry’s digital transformation, and many believe part of this transformation involves artificial intelligence. Diversity and inclusion must be a part of this transformation for the industry to stay ahead of the game. 

Workplace safety is a huge priority, especially on the job site. Utilizing INDUS.AI’s technology helps collect real-time, actionable data 24/7 to monitor the safety of your job site and employees. This allows GC’s to prevent accidents before they happen. A safer workplace is vital to recruiting and retaining the right employees, and any incidents on the job site are carefully monitored and handled through the appropriate channels. Monitoring these situations and revamping the hiring process to include a more diverse talent pool will only positively benefit the industry overall. 

Construction firms trying to bring diversity into their teams, boardrooms, and beyond must make these initiatives top priority for a safer, more productive workplace. Over time, doing so will alleviate the industry’s labor shortage, increase bottom lines, and have a positive impact on companies from the top down.

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