Diversity in construction: how far have we come?

Claire Sheerin of Hays
Claire Sheerin

By Claire Sheerin, director of Hays Construction & Property in Scotland

IN a recent survey of construction professionals nearly half of the respondents (46%) said they felt their career progression has been limited due to their background. There were even higher instances of career progression limitation according to BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) respondents, of which two-thirds (66%) believe their career progression has been limited due to their background. 

39% said they felt the chances of them being accepted for a job had been lowered because of their background. From this group, 46% said this was because of their age, 37% cited ethnicity and 34% said it was because of their gender. 10% said they felt their chances were lowered due to their sexual orientation, 8% due to their religion, 6% due to disability and 4% cited mental health. 

The research, conducted by Hays Property & Construction, also revealed a lack of trust amongst professionals towards leaders in the industry, with only 35% of respondents saying they would trust their leaders to deliver change on the diversity and inclusion agenda. 

Close to two-thirds (60%) of construction professionals say their leaders have a bias towards people who look, think or act like them. Respondents with a disability (69%) were more likely to say this is the case. And only 27% believe their organisation is actively working to develop under-represented groups specifically into leadership roles.

These results suggest that despite a number of initiatives being put in place in recent years to better balance gender diversity in the industry, more needs to be done to address diversity and inclusion as a whole.

It’s clear that many professionals have faced barriers not only when applying for a job, but also barriers to career progression. Most organisations would be quick to refute any suggestion that their employees’ progression is limited due to gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or socio-economic background. However, employers need to be aware that these perceptions do exist. Employees should indeed feel confident to express this sentiment, and there should be a process in place for any feedback to be responded to, and acted upon, where appropriate.  

In the survey, 24% said their organisation never supports key diversity events, such as multi-cultural religious observance, Pride and International Women’s Day, against 15% of organisations who said that they always do. Only 27% of organisations said that they actively work to develop under-represented groups, specifically into leadership roles.

So it’s even more pertinent for employers to prioritise diversity and inclusion as the industry continues to be challenged by severe skills shortages. It’s well-known that employers who proactively source diverse candidates when hiring, stand to benefit from being more likely to attract professionals from a wider range of demographics and, as a result, will have access to a broader pool of talent.

• The Hays Report ‘Diversity and Inclusion in Construction’ covered 1,064 respondents of which 26% were female, 72% were male and 2% other.