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Race and ethnicity – what can the industry do next?

08 November 2023

Representatives from the built environment sector came together to discuss how to create a more diverse and inclusive industry.

Race and ethnicity – what can the industry do next?
If the CEO can find the time, everyone can, and everyone can be an ally. Image credit: Shutterstock

‘It’s our industry, it’s our responsibility’ – that was the message that built environment professionals wanted the sector to know about their role in creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.

They discussed this role at a recent race and ethnicity workshop hosted by the ICE, National Highways (NH), and the NH’s Supplier Diversity Forum.

Taking responsibility for encouraging and ensuring diversity is something everyone has to play a role in, the attendees at the event agreed.

By creating an inclusive workplace, we can grow and retain talent, develop a more diverse and welcoming sector, and in turn create infrastructure to build better communities.

The event, Race and Ethnicity – Everyone's Business, took place at the end of October, marking the culmination of Black History Month.

Time to take control

Keynote speaker Anit Chandarana, Department of Transport’s interim director, recognised that interventions are still needed to address racism throughout the sector.

However, he implored the industry to take control of its own future, rather than waiting for others to solve the issue.

A broad and diverse panel discussion took place, chaired by Loraine Martins OBE.

Panellists included Olu Olabode, Balfour Beatty commercial director, Mark Thurston, formerly of HS2, David Waboso CBE, an independent strategic advisor, and ICE President Professor Anusha Shah.

The panel shared how they worked their way to senior positions, discussed inter-generational changes and experiences of conscious and unconscious bias in the workplace.

Everyone needs to take part

They stressed the importance of leaders who listened, participated in employee networks and made themselves visible allies.

The consensus was - if the CEO can find the time, everyone can, and everyone can be an ally.

One of the key takeaways from the conversation was that building a diverse and inclusive workplace requires everyone to play their part.

Attendees were also invited to take part in one of three workshops.

These focused on learning from outside the sector, the ICE’s anti-racism toolkit and how to use your position to drive change.

Attendees shared their experiences, including how and why they had begun dialogues about race in the workplace, their fears in doing this, and how they overcame them.

They also discussed what they did to better educate themselves on creating inclusive workplaces.

Watch the event recording

  • Andrew Stanley, head of education policy at Institution of Civil Engineers