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Build a Culture of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion From the Ground Up

Casting a wider net for the workforce would solve innumerable issues, but requires commitment and work.
By Maja Rosenquist
January 13, 2022
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Despite growing awareness nationwide of the inequities underrepresented communities face in the workforce, the construction industry still has a long way to go when it comes to inclusivity. Right now, just 10.9% of the construction industry workforce is female. Nationally across the industry, just 6% of construction workers are Black, 2% are Asian and 30% are Latinx.

At the same time, construction is facing a historic labor shortage. Many contractors are struggling to find craft workers, a reflection of a pre-COVID-19 worker shortage exacerbated by the pandemic and its economic fallout.

It’s clear that casting a wider net for the workforce would solve innumerable issues, but it requires commitment and work across all levels of the industry. Recognizing it’s not an issue one company can solve alone, six general contractors created a consortium, Time for Change, last year with a single purpose: To identify ways to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the construction industry.

The shared effort by Gilbane Building Company, DPR Construction, Turner Construction Company, Mortenson, McCarthy Building Companies and Clark Construction Group resulted in organizing the industry-wide Construction Inclusion Week, which occurred on Oct. 18 to Oct. 22, 2021. The theme of “Building the Foundation for Inclusion” encouraged dialogue and action in the industry through a week of intentionally focused activities.

Committing to a Culture of CARE

Buy-in at every level of the construction industry is essential but ground zero for real cultural change in the industry is the jobsite.


We all know what a good jobsite culture feels like: It’s the job that everyone wants to be on because it looks and feels welcoming. It’s also true that a good culture leads to a safer and more productive job—one that provides higher value to clients and allows every single worker to perform their best work.

Creation of this culture starts with leadership and accountability at every level. Each employee has a responsibility to examine behaviors and determine how they are impacting culture on the jobsite, perhaps even acknowledging some uncomfortable truths about where they could do better. That takes more than a pamphlet or an email—simply paying lip service to the idea of DEI isn’t enough. Construction Inclusion Week allows industry stakeholders to carve out time on their sites to make real change a priority.

Each day of Construction Inclusion Week was structured to not only offer education and information on potential pitfalls and tips for tackling tough topics like unconscious bias and discrimination on the jobsite, but it also aimed to create the space for meaningful conversation and dialogue among team members. And while education and dialogue are important first steps, it’s also important to commit to concrete actions to improve the culture.

To guide these actions, the consortium kicked off the week by defining and committing to four principles for creating a Culture of CARE in the industry:

  • Hiring and paying based on skill and experience—regardless of ability, age, ethnicity, gender identity, nationality, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation;
  • Attracting employees and partners by creating inclusive workplaces free of harassment, hazing or bullying;
  • Retaining high-performing employees by identifying and removing barriers to advancement; and
  • Empowering every individual to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion.

For each of these principles, throughout the week, the consortium walked through what supporting a Culture of CARE actually looks like on the jobsite—from respectfully acknowledging differences and seeking out a diversity of opinions to defining what is and is not an acceptable behavior on the jobsite.

The consortium recognizes that every company is in a different place on their journey toward creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce, but through these activities, the consortium hopes to meet people where they are with resources they can use right away to make an immediate difference in their cultures and on their jobsites.

Amplifying the Efforts

Once the consortium started the conversation and created the space to look inward, the final day of Construction Inclusion Week encouraged each team and each jobsite to look outward, into their community.

One of the most impactful ways discovered to build jobsite culture at Mortenson has been through volunteering and outreach efforts. On every job, teams are encouraged and empowered to look for ways to leave the community better than they found it.

Throughout the week of events and into the future, the consortium asked everyone to look at their community outreach efforts through a DEI lens. Are we supporting diverse communities in meaningful ways? Is there open dialogue between our companies and community leaders? Are we leveraging the resources of our industry to create real social change?

Construction companies are community builders by nature. They are on the ground in every area of their cities and towns. Collectively, they have so much power to do good. The consortium viewed this week as an important opportunity to expand that definition to include the kinds of activities that create more inclusive, welcoming places for everyone.

Construction Inclusion Week was only the beginning. Through these efforts and more that the consortium will undertake over on an ongoing basis, participating companies are serious about creating real change in the industry. They encourage fellow partners in this industry and beyond to join them, take advantage of the resources being creating and to take the next step in building their own culture of care. To learn more, visit www.constructioninclusionweek.com.

by Maja Rosenquist
Maja Rosenquist is a senior vice president with Mortenson Construction where she oversees offices in both Denver, Phoenix and Salt Lake City. With more than 25 years of construction industry experience, she leads the firm’s project procurement, operations and project execution.

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