Monday, 8 July 2013

Constructing Equality Blog moving to Constructing Equality website

Over the next few weeks we will be moving the blog over to the Constructing Equality website. The decision to re-locate has been made for a number of reasons: chiefly, so that our readers can take advantage of the links to current research, news stories, archived newsletters and the wealth of other resources that we have on there; it will also make it easier for people who browse our website to find this blog, and learn a bit more about the complexities of equality in the construction sector.

As ever our top priority is making sure that we can create content that is of use to you and your business, so if you would like to see a blog on a particular topic, please get in touch.
You can also find us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter 

So why not head over for a read, have a look round. You can have a go at our monthly quiz there as well - with a prize of £20 worth of vouchers for one lucky entrant! 

Friday, 28 June 2013

5 reasons why respect for people isn’t peripheral:

Last week we blogged about the amazing news that the CITB   BE FaIR Framework had gained interest from 148 companies in the construction sector, and that 110 of them had been accepted onto the pilot. Off the back of that blog we had some really positive comments supporting the framework and the work that companies have been doing to drive this agenda forward in the sector.

"So encouraging to see such great take up of this by Main Contractors. Well done to Constructing Equality for helping to make some small steps towards a fairer and more respectful Construction Industry..."
By Nicola Dibb

Unfortunately, we also had some comments, like those from Dan Lewis below: that felt the agenda around respect was peripheral to more important issues in the sector - that resources should only be put into this area when there was a surplus and other factors are dealt with.

"It is peripheral because the focus of a company is on serving its clients and customers. The colour of one's skin, one's gender, or the nationality of one's parents has nothing to do with the mission of the company. As an executive, the first and only requirement of an employee is to serve the company's clients with respect and diligence. Yes, that requires people working together and well. But race, gender, et al have nothing to do with it. Management has to foster an environment built toward service and excellence. In a prosperous market, there are resources and time for such efforts. Most companies have to focus on something else right now. And as Matthew points out, employee development and recognition are important management activities, but that is because it is focused on what is performed, rather than who you are."By Dan Lewis

We feel this sentiment is missing the point and to consider that issues around respect affect only those visibly different from the norm is missing the point. Furthermore, to assume that equality is only an important factor when recruiting misunderstands the challenges faced by individuals in the sector and organisations trying to retain key talent.

Therefore we felt that we should explain why equality and respect for people are not peripheral but at the core of everything a business does.

1.       Innovation - groups of different people are more likely to be more innovative. This is true of personality types and factors like gender and background. A mixed range of experience is more likely to produce innovative solutions - imagine the solutions that would come from 12 people with the same experience and background. Then imagine the response from 12 people with a varied range. Not only does a mixed group have more experience to share, it is also much more likely to feel able to do so.

2.       Procurement - Public sector bodies procuring work in the UK are legally committed to improving equality in the workplace, so are their supply chain. I’m going to credit you all with the smarts to work out why that’s important to your business.

3.       Productive teams - We are at our best when we are happy - we are more productive and encourage productivity around us. Therefore, if members of the team are worried, harassed or unable to build a rapport with colleagues we are not able to get the most out of them. Things seemingly unrelated, like sexual orientation or religion, can have a huge impact here; if a colleague makes jokes and other people laugh it sends a message about how the group feels about other groups and can make individuals less likely to talk about what’s important to them. Imagine if you felt you couldn’t talk about your friends, hobbies, partners and interest for fear of giving away an identity that might be rejected by your colleagues.

4.       Retain Talent - If people don’t feel they are respected and valued within their roles, it is highly likely that they will seek employment elsewhere. Women and minority groups, especially those with a visible indicator, are likely to have a different experience in the construction workplace; usually a more stressful and discriminatory one. This experience is not something that others are aware that they are contributing to or think is something negative, but nonetheless it has a negative impact on careers. For example: - the site manager who protects the female trainee from the site environment by giving her more work in the office; the QS who only employs from their own pool of past colleagues; or the colleague who makes jokes around homosexuality. Whilst these acts might seem inoffensive, they can hold back a career by not providing the right experience and limit the opportunities from those trying to get a start in the sector who are not already in the main pool as well as making people afraid to be themselves and form real friendships in the work environment. You see… race, gender and a host of other factors have a lot to do with people working well together, and whilst you can choose to ignore this it will not stop it affecting you as you watch your key talent walk out the door.

5.       Encourage the best recruits - we know there is a shortage of skills in the sector and this problem is only likely to increase as we come out of the recession. That means the fight to attract the best talent is an important one. A good salary is only half the battle people want to know that their place of employment is committed to respect, and by being able to show this you are much more likely to attract key talent.

So there you have it, 5 reasons why this agenda is so important to your business. Thank you to all those who left comments – even ones we do not agree with; this blog shows they are a great way of furthering the debate, so please continue to let us know your thoughts on this agenda.

Happy Building


Friday, 21 June 2013

Women in the Workplace- did BIS miss the point?

Yesterday the BIS report looking at women in the workplace came out after an extensive period of investigation that included evidence from Architects for Change, WAMT and ourselves, as well as consultation through Mumsnet and Women’s Hour. The conclusion of the report brought up many relevant and important points including flexible working, stereotyping and support for the Public Sector Equality Duties. Whilst I applaud this work and feel it is all vital I can’t help but think it’s missing an important point.

Most of it is designed to: get women into careers, overcome barriers around child-care or support them into senior roles, with very little considering those already in non-stereotypical roles struggling to crack the glass ceiling1or even just find supportive employment. But although some of the conclusions it covers, like positive action, equality impact assessments and pay-transparency could help, the likelihood in the construction sector is that these things will have little impact.

Whilst I am often met with the assumption that women leave the sector to have children most of the women I know that have left, or are looking to leave, do so before they have even thought about reproducing 2–5.  This for me highlights a very important point; something else is driving them away.  I know for many this seems like too big, or small, a problem to deal with depending on your mind-set, but I believe the answer is quite simple – support.  Studies have shown that women are more likely to stay, and be loyal to an organisation, if they feel it would support her and looking back over my own career I would agree - it was never the negative instances that bothered me as much as the company’s inability, or refusal,  to do anything about it.

More women are embarking on construction-related degrees every year, but we are losing them just as quickly – a critical mass approach does not seem to be working 6,7. Without understanding the challenges and barriers that women in the sector face, and putting in adequate measures to support them, as well as talking about dated views and sub-conscious biases that deny them progression opportunities, the encouragement of more women into the sector might simply end up with more women leaving it.

As organisations we need to start understanding that in this situation silence does not equal happiness - we must be proactive in supporting our women without overtly singling them out and understand that they may well be as in-the-dark about what’s holding them back as you are.  This change won’t happen overnight, but by giving your workforce a reason to trust that you understand, or are at least willing to find out about, the real barriers they face and show that you have moved beyond obvious myths, it will come.

Happy Building


1.           Gurjao, S. Inclusivity : the Changing Role of Women in the Construction. CIOB (2006).

2.           Graft-Johnson, A. De, Manley, S. & Greed, C. Why Do Women Leave Architecture?: Research Into the Retention of Women in Architectural Practice. (2003).at <>

3.           Bagilhole, B. M., Dainty, A. R. J. & Neale, R. H. A Woman Engineer  ’ s Experiences of Working on British Construction Sites *. Int. J. Engng Ed. 18, 422–429 (2002).

4.           Powell, A., Dainty, A. & Bagilhole, B. A poisoned chalice? Why UK women engineering and technology students may receive more “help” than their male peers. Gender and Education 23, 585–599 (2011).

5.           Bennett, J. F., Davidson, M. J., Galeand, A. W. & Gale, A. W. Women in construction : a comparative investigation into the expectations and experiences of female and male construction undergraduates and employees Women in construction : a comparative investigation into th. Women In Management Review Emerald Article : (2005).

6.           Powell, A., Bagilhole, B. M. & Dainty, A. R. J. The problem of women’s assimilation into UK engineering cultures: can critical mass work? Equal Opportunities International 25, 688–699 (2006).

7.           Greed, C. Women in the Construction Professions: Achieving Critical Mass. Gender, Work and Organization 7, 181–196 (2000).

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Over 148 Construction companies apply to be on the CITB BE FaIR Framework pilot - CITB’s new industry-approved accredited framework for fairness, inclusion and respect in the workplace

The CITB BE FaIR (Built Environment Fairness, Inclusion and Respect) accreditation framework developed by CITB (The Construction Industry Training Board and sector skills council for construction) in partnership with  Constructing Equality Ltd, (The leading provider of construction-specific equality and diversity training and consultancy) supports the construction industry in addressing fairness, inclusion and respect.

Following a successful test of the first six strands in Summer 2012, CITB and Constructing Equality Ltd have received the interest of 148 companies to undertake the pilot, which runs from now until December 2013, of the Main Contractor and Sub-contractor strands and have just offered places to 110.

“Having a diverse workforce is beneficial to a company’s productivity, profitability and growth.  It is great to see the level of interest the framework has generated and the opportunities it presents for demonstrating business practise within the Industry. As an organisation we are committed to attracting and supporting the best workers to the construction industry, reflecting the diverse society we all live in.” – Matt Valentine-Pyle, CITB

The 110 companies range from small sub-contractors like Highwire Ltd, Macform Ltd and Cullins Ltd all the way up to large main contractors like Vinci plc., Wates Group, ISG plc. and Graham.
With 13 main contractors, largely drawn from UKCG members, and the declared support of this framework from the Industry Leadership Group for Fairness, Inclusion and Respect chaired by Judy Lowe, CITB Deputy Chair, this new approach to diversity, that sets a baseline of fairness for everyone, seems to be really hitting a key note with companies across the industry.

Graham, one of the test companies, is part of the pilot and has already identified that they are seeing improvements across their business, especially amongst their workforce on site, in morale, motivation and commitment to fairness, inclusion and respect for everyone.

Taking on the CITB BE FaIR framework enables companies to develop and progress as they move through accreditation levels from simply complying with the law at Level 1 right the way through to being a leading light for best practice in the sector at Level 4.

This (CITB BE FaIR) is a construction-specific accredited framework that has been designed to support the industry’s wide range of companies and organisations in addressing equality law and public sector equality duties through encouraging and developing fair practices in the workplace for all.
The CITB BE FaIR Framework is written in “strands” that segment the sector into its different types of organisations   and help identify and support the relevant challenges and needs.

Companies wishing to find out more about how they can adopt the BE FaIR framework should contact their CITB local office or the CITB website.

Monday, 3 June 2013

How we got to here - a history of Constructing Equality.

This month marks the sixth year anniversary of Constructing Equality Ltd and we thought we would provide you with a bit of history and perspective so that you can understand how we are working to make change in the sector.

2007 – 2009 The Learning Years                
Originally, after leaving my job as a site manager, I set up the company with the aim of helping businesses find an approach to aspects around equality that could understand the challenges they faced. What was very clear from the off was that the industry could not overcome many of the barriers it was presented with such as: - false self-employment, poor trainee record, and nepotistic culture, without working together. We knew
this because companies that had tried told us they found this work was undermined by competitors poaching staff they had trained and therefore were unable to pay more, was diluted on projects without the same underpinning and was not valued by clients - who often valued short-term initiatives for the community over longer term progress for industry; consequently this did not win tenders.  You might think that this is not important to equality, but it is, very important indeed. How can we expect the majority of the industry to co-operate in encouraging and developing individuals from minority backgrounds when they themselves feel undervalued, badly treated and threatened? We felt that in order to bring equality to the sector we needed to start with the workforce we already had.

2009 – 2011 – Formulating a Plan
The first two years were spent reading quite a bit - the next few were spent reading a lot; undertaking a Masters degree and transferring onto a PhD . Not only did we need to improve conditions in the sector for the individuals within it, but for the companies too and we needed to be able to back this up with research. Whilst ten years in industry gave us a good background in the sector we needed to establish a greater depth to the understanding of how policy, politics and the economy shaped the way the industry operates and then look at how we could set in motion a realistic plan to overcome those challenges together as a sector. We know from historic work, to succeed it needed to have value, but be reasonably priced, be highly complex in its understanding of the sector, people and equalities as well as easy for companies to understand and use - but most importantly have the ability to bring the industry together; trusting that if we worked together we would all benefit. Early on we understood that we could not develop this trust from a consultancy framework, nor could we do this alone. We therefore decided to approach CITB the sector skills council.

2012 – Present - Making Progress
CITB were looking to develop an equality standard of their own - so, with the timing right, we put forward the idea of something bigger - that went beyond equalities and tackled the issues faced by the sector in a way that was affordable and attainable to all organisations working within it. We won the bid and have been developing the CITB BE FaIR framework for the last year and a half with the first 6 strands (Sub-contractors and Main Contractors) being piloted this year and the second set of 8 also being tested. The BE FaIR framework has had an amazing response and whilst it is at the core of our business, it’s not all we do.
We also undertake research for CITB and other clients, Training for companies like Graham, Taylor Wimpey and Derbyshire County Council and consultation for the likes of  Vinci, CITB and CIC.

Aside from the business of making money, we commit 10% of our time to work which helps move this agenda forward in industry - not only with our more recognised resources like the website, quiz and newsletter, which contain a wealth of information and opportunities for companies to promote good practice, but also by running projects to retain students in universities, collecting data in industry (CIC), visiting schools to talk about careers in industry and talking at events.

In the future, we want to involve more of you in this work - creating a scheme where you can become supporters of Constructing Equality Ltd., which will essentially mean that you support the right of all people in industry to be treated fairly.  We in turn will look to give you training and opportunities to showcase your passion. At the end of the day, the company is guided by a love of industry and a vision of the potential of the sector. 

We already do amazing things on a daily basis - just imagine how much more we could do in the right working environment.

Please get in touch to find out how you can get involved,

Happy Building


Friday, 24 May 2013

Interview advice for individuals from black minority ethnic communities.

Following on from last week’s blog looking at what people from black and minority ethnic communities can do to increase their chances of making it through to interview stage, we shall now consider how to put across a good impression when you get there - highlighting areas we know can cause barriers to some people from non-white British backgrounds when seeking jobs in the UK.

As we stated last week, our position on what is right and wrong is irrelevant; and we are not saying that everyone will face these barriers, or create them - rather, that they can exist. And whilst the law is here to protect you, sometimes people aren’t always consciously aware or even care that they are being discriminatory. Consequently, you should be aware of the barriers you may face so that you can decide if you want to avoid companies that won’t be supportive of your experience in the workplace, or use tools to navigate around this behaviour in order to increase your chances of finding employment.

Whilst race and religion are different considerations, religious affiliations are often cultural. And stereotypes can sometimes be linked to items that display belief - be that jewellery or clothing and this can sometimes damage your chances at interview. Whilst the ideal would be to remain neutral at interview stage - ensuring that such items (jewellery especially in this case) are removed or hidden - there are some doctrines that require a more visible display of faith. In these instances we would advise that you broach the subject to address any potential misunderstandings that the employer may have and redress  any concerns they may have of your ability to do your job safely.

Body Language
Interview stage is all about rapport; the majority of the decision will be made on the things that are not said, rather than the things that are. Although we would advise that you do not attempt to read other peoples’ body language, we would advise that you do influence your own. There are cultural norms in the UK that suggest a good applicant such as: - a firm handshake, direct eye contact and straight posture. Make sure you display these traits because, as difficult as this might be if your culture values opposing nonverbal cues, you may wish to give yourself the best possible chance of appearing competent, confident and capable in the eyes of the interviewer.

Work History
If your work history contains periods where you worked abroad or in an organisation that an employer might consider “non-British”, bear in mind that there could be an assumption that this work would not apply to the UK market and they might not value this contribution. Make sure you point out how your skills are transferable and the additional diversity can, in truth, add value to the organisation through increased experience and knowledge around how different cultures approach challenges.

There is a fine line here; whilst culturally the UK can be modest sometimes, this is false and at interview you need to project your very best. There’s an art to selling yourself without coming across as overbearing, so practice on friends till you can get it right. Also have a look at this: - handy guide from what I learned today shows some good examples of how the British can use language in often confusing manner,

Remember if something is not mentioned it does not mean it is not being thought about - make sure you take the chance to alleviate concerns and instead leave the interviewer feeling that any perceived differences will add value to their business. 

Happy Building


Friday, 17 May 2013

Construction and the black and minority ethnic communities

This week Panorama showed a programme called “Jobs for the boys”, which considered findings that young African men were twice as likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts. We were interviewed for the programme and gave advice on seeking positions in construction from the black minority ethnic communities. As it was only a half hour program not all of the advice we gave made it to the final edit so we felt a blog with further information might be of use.

Please note: this is a large and complicated area so do additional research into factors that may affect you.

Firstly, there are internal and external factors to consider. Internal factors are the things you do personally that might stand in the way of you getting a job and external factors are the things that create barriers for companies that are beyond your control. Internal factors can be due to your background, culture, community, etc., and can affect how you feel, hold and present yourself. One example is how you communicate. Consider that up to 83% of communication is reliant on non-verbal cues (proximity, eye contact, touch) and cultures can be very picky about the rules.  For example, a study found that Italians touched over 200 times in an hour when having a conversation, whereas the British just two to three. So if someone British was talking to someone Italian they might feel uncomfortable with the amount of touching whilst the Italian might find their British friend to be cold and unfriendly. This gives you an example of how the way you walk, talk and hold yourself can have a massive impact on getting a job - we know that most people make their decision subconsciously within seconds of someone walking through the door, so make sure your body language mimics what they are expecting.
Externally there are also barriers.....

Both construction and ethnic status are not as simple as they first look; barriers to construction for example, will depend upon what area of the industry you are looking to get into. The trades (the actual work of laying bricks, cladding buildings, etc.) mostly recruit people they know, which means if they mostly know white British people, they will mostly employ them.  On the other hand finding a job within the professions (Quantity surveyor, architects, site managers etc), where bigger firms often rule the roost, can be easier for minority groups to access than the trades, but promotion and a welcoming environment, once inside, can be a bigger challenge.
Black or minority ethnic status is also a dependant factor, as stereotypes and challenges differ between one group and another. Factors such as religion, skin colour, language, name, and family responsibility could have an impact on the way you are perceived which, whilst it shouldn’t, can create a barrier.  In construction we have heard “Asian kids don’t want to work in construction as they all want to be doctors” and “all the Irish are good for is ground-working”.  Unfortunately we have also heard far more offensive stereotypes (it should be noted not only in construction)  but I don’t want to reinforce them by writing them down.  The point is, clumping together issues around race isn’t always helpful, instead what I shall do is give some advice on what you might want to consider when applying for a job.

Please acknowledge that, in writing this, what I feel is right and wrong is irrelevant.  This is based upon challenges we know you might face and what can be done to work with the way things are - it is up to you to decide what feels right for you: -

What to do

Your CV – This should be about getting you through the door; interview stage is where you can wow with your brilliance. At CV stage companies are looking to see if you have the basic requirements but there are other factors that can hinder your chances of making the sift - your ethnicity is sometimes linked to the assumption that English will be a second language and then the further assumption that if it is a second language you will not be skilled enough in it - therefore you need to set out your stall.

Your name - Some employers in the UK are more likely to employ someone with a traditionally British name; we hear and have seen research on this from large and small companies and, as a workaround, people have been known to employ a British nickname to get them through to the interview stage.

Your spelling - Linked with language assumptions above - make sure you do all you can to challenge this perception where it might occur; people will be hypersensitive to your spelling and grammar and what my white (albeit Irish) name will get away with, yours might not.  Again it’s not fair that we have to work around these issues – but that’s why I’m writing this blog in the first place and trying to bring about change.

Your language - Cultures can have different approaches   to showing respect. So where in the UK we are somewhat more reserved, friends from Uganda and Northern India who now work in the UK can be somewhat more enthusiastic when applying for roles - exclaiming that they would “love the chance to work for such a brilliant, amazing and fantastic organisation”. Unfortunately, this can sometimes be seen as false and, consequently, weakens your application.

What to look out for

Also, companies that work for the public sector are subject to different legislations and are therefore, not only more open to employing people from none white British communities, but also have further support in place to develop their careers.

Where to go

These organisations can help: -
    • Stephen Lawrence Trust
    • Princes Trust
    • Youth Build Bradford
If anyone sees this as useful let us know and next week we will write about the interview stage next week.

Happy Building,


For all things construction and equality, get yourself over to the Constructing Equality Ltd. website.