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We must invest more in diversity

Following the publication of the LGB Construction News survey, the question of diversity in the construction industry has well and truly been placed in the spotlight.

As someone working to change perceptions in the industry for seven years, I believe the issue of diversity and its wider importance is fundamental to attracting and retaining the talent we need for the future.

From the survey findings it is clear that the LGB community is a key group that needs support, especially when it comes to having the confidence to be openly gay, but the real issues surround how we tackle diversity in general.

It is important to change what are age-old perceptions about construction.

The industry is on this journey, but I, like others working to champion diversity, recognise that the stereotypes can take decades to eradicate.

It is certainly not an industry full of white middle aged men, but there are existing perceptions which place the construction sector into this stereotype.

This is why I feel that the Investors in Diversity (IiD) accreditation, run by the National Centre for Diversity is so important. It provides a platform to promote diversity that is measured across the organisation, so no stone is left unturned.

As part of our IiD Stage 2 accreditation, we undertook a company wide survey, receiving responses from 993 employees, around 40 per cent of our staff, 358 of which left additional comments.

For me, one of those comments really sums up what the industry is trying to achieve: “We work with people from a broad spectrum and their ethnicity, sexuality, race and religion etc is never a factor about working with them.”

It is not just about creating a policy that is pushed top down from head office, it is about inclusivity.

When we started our sessions, we asked for volunteer local diversity champions. These individuals now provide an opportunity for staff to raise diversity issues.

Sub-groups are now developing, with our Women at Interserve network fostering communication across a varied group of individuals.

We have also started to concentrate on awareness days, like Epilepsy Purple Day on 26th March 2016, all of which helps to raise awareness.

Tackling the issue of diversity is all about communication. If we are to have a much more diverse and inclusive industry, everyone needs to feel they can be part of the conversation.

Julie Bradley is head of HR at Interserve Construction

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