As a keen advocate for Diversity & Inclusion across industry, Asia Williams ACP YPN SDG11 Expert took the initiative to explore Race in the Workplace with her colleagues and external guests at a recent event. As a minority ethnic woman in the Built Environment sector, she is aware of the lack of presence of both women and BAME groups in her industry. There is also a need to address issues around the lack of disability, religion, age and LGBTQ presence in this industry and across business in general. Her industry is also facing a skills shortage with 400,000 people needed every year to deliver housing and infrastructure needs. The UK Government’s recent Race Disparity Audit and McGregor-Smith report spurred her to find out more about the often little talked about and ‘taboo’ Race issue and try to work collectively to fashion the solutions.
Next year, in the UK, gender pay reporting will become mandatory for firms, and this is likely to be followed by ethnicity pay reporting. Recent voluntary audits such as those done by PwC highlight lower pay and bonuses for colleagues of the same career grades from BAME backgrounds. We know that regulation will have to follow. Not only this, but recent research conducted by McKinsey demonstrated that ethnically diverse companies outperform their competitors by 35% and the McGregor-Smith report highlighted that embracing D&I could unlock £24 billion for the UK economy. This is not just a moral argument but clear economics; there is a business case around the much needed push for diversity.
Data in the Construction Industry shows that we are lagging behind. Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) currently only have 1.4% of their surveyors from BAME backgrounds and only 23% are women. This is in the face of a ‘demographic timebomb’ where 25% of surveyors are predicted to retire in the next 10 years. Businesses must address the need to be more reflective of the societies we operate in now more than ever. In the UK 14% of the population are BAME and in London, this stands at 40%. We are missing a whole pool of untapped talent. Further research identifies a quarter of all graduate engineers are from BAME backgrounds and 23% of the UK university population are BAME. Yet they are still experiencing barriers in the workplace, whether it be access to entry level opportunities, being passed up for promotion or being overqualified for the positions they are in. The attrition rates for BAME groups across businesses are higher because of this and the pace of increases in recruitment cannot tackle the issue if progression is not addressed.
In her workplace, they have strong values around sustainability and improving the quality of life and this is why they have taken the opportunity to confront the statistics, start the discussion and begin to plan steps to address these burning issues. Not only is it beneficial for their business, but for their people, the communities they work within and the clients they serve. Asia is “ very proud to push this agenda into the mainstream conversation around D&I and excited to work collaboratively with my colleagues to develop the next steps and see where it takes us”.
by Asia Williams ACP YPN SDG11 Expert
See also, Politico EU on Diversity & Inclusion in the EU, with input from the EP Anti-Racism, Diversity & Inclusion inter-group.
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