February 8 2023

Why Diversity Matters in Construction


While the construction industry is striving towards greater equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), it still lags behind most industries. The vast majority of UK construction workers are white men–14% are women and just 6% are BAME, according to Government data.

This makes for a serious risk of unconscious bias and acceptance of discriminatory behaviour as “normal”, driving out the underrepresented groups we want to attract. Examples reported by the Chartered Institute of Building include:

  • No female-sized PPE
  • Non-male toilets locked and used as storerooms–you have to ask a male supervisor for the key
  • Comments about people’s gender, appearance or sexuality
  • Excluding minority employees from conversations


Where we stand

Study after study has shown that more diverse teams perform better and have more innovative ideas. For example, a McKinsey report found that companies with over 30% of women executives were likely to outperform those with fewer. In 2019, companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity were 36% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. And the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that good EDI practice leads to a wider talent pool, a more diverse supply chain, more support for small businesses and better working relationships on site.

At McGinley, inclusion is one of our key values, and we walk the talk when it comes to diversity. 23% of our people are from BAME backgrounds, compared to the industry average of 6%.

With the sector facing an unprecedented skills shortage, and the pace of digital transformation demanding massive innovation, no construction company can afford to ignore EDI or treat it as a box-ticking exercise. We need to make the industry a genuinely welcoming place for those who have been excluded in the past.

What you can do

Executive level

Many companies come together on a construction site–each one at a different stage of addressing EDI. Getting everyone on the same page can be difficult, but clients have an important role to play in setting the tone for behaviour on site. Making your expectations around EDI clear at the procurement stage can go a long way to create more inclusive sites.

Non-exec level

There are three things anyone can do to promote EDI:

Allyship: Set up employee networks for underrepresented groups to drive change from the ground up.

Calling it out: Make suggestions for practical action, whether it’s asking for a non-male toilet that isn’t locked or calling out someone making racist comments.

Data: Set targets and hold your organisation to account. If your organisation is large enough to be required to report on things like the gender pay gap, that provides a useful starting point for data collection.


In conclusion


EDI in construction is everyone’s job. Nobody is a bystander here–we all have a part to play, and we all stand to benefit from a fairer industry. You’re not alone–whether you’re looking to run a more inclusive organisation or to work for one, contact us today for expert support and advice.

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