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Our kids will look back and ask: Why did diversity take so long?

Jo Jamieson

Having worked in construction for more than two decades, I recently received – for the first time ever – a truly diverse set of job applications for a vacancy in my team.

The CVs were evenly balanced between male and female applicants while also featuring various ethnicities, religions and the general social fabric of the area in which we had advertised. This didn’t happen by accident or happy coincidence.

Like many of the larger UK construction firms, my business has been taking steps to address its own inconsistencies and help tackle the wider challenges our industry faces around equality, diversity and inclusion.

Practical steps

As part of this work, United Living has begun to instruct its recruitment agencies to provide more diverse candidate shortlists. While it’s too early to offer specific results, the applicants I’ve already seen have reinforced the policy’s potential. 

Future generations will look back on this period of time and wonder why it had been so difficult to achieve true equality and diversity across the workforce – not just in construction but more generally. 

This year has seen some real breakthrough moments in creating a more inclusive workforce, with the introduction of mandatory gender pay reporting and the consultation for ethnicity pay reporting that is now under way.

“Success will rely on input from a number of individuals alongside organisations within our supply chain”

Gradually we are moving in the right direction because of these changes.

United Living changed its recruitment policy following an audit of workforce diversity. The results were encouraging for a business of our size: of 580 staff in the UK, 30 per cent were women and 13 per cent were from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Across the UK, 12 per cent of the construction workforce are women and 7.4 per cent are from BAME backgrounds.

Not naming and shaming

Yet this is not about being proud of or embarrassed by your company’s stats; it’s about understanding exactly how we are all performing, so that we can begin to make necessary and appropriate improvements.

There is still much to be done to ensure fairer progression opportunities, as well as the challenge not just around the supply of a diverse workforce but also related to the demand. With an ageing workforce, we need to do more to improve negative perceptions of our industry and ensure a career in construction appeals to people from all backgrounds.

At United Living, we’ve created a 10-point action plan to improve diversity. Challenging all staff responsible for recruitment processes and ensuring agencies provide diverse shortlists form part of these actions.

Success will rely on input from a number of individuals working within our core team, alongside those organisations within our supply chain.

As an industry, we all must support each other in creating a truly diverse workforce, because diversity of people is diversity of mindset.

Jo Jamieson is managing director for the North at United Living

Readers' comments (1)

  • I am keen to know if any of those applicants divulged whether they had a disability or not. The article itself makes no reference to disabilities and in my experience of sending my CV out I was advised to make no reference to being disabled in order to overcome bias.

    This is another aspect that needs to be challenged across employment in general.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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