2019 Review

Inspiring diversity and inclusion in construction

Over 200 construction professionals gathered at the Hilton, Deansgate, Manchester,
for the Inspire Summit, which is continuing to act as a platform for encouraging debate
around diversity and inclusion in the construction sector.

The event, now in its third year, was hosted by award-winning journalist and broadcaster Marverine Cole, and was attended by men and women working in construction, as well as students hoping to join the industry.

Creating cultures where everyone can succeed was a focus for this year’s conference, which was split into three sections: personal development, recruitment and retention.

Rebecca Thompson, founder and director of Thompson Heritage Consultancy and fellow and past president of the Chartered Institute of Building opened the conference.

She talked about her experiences starting out in the sector and explained the importance of high ethical standards from professional bodies.

Every single one of us has a bias based on our life experiences

Fiona Triller

programme director of Creating Inclusive Industries

Experts and industry leaders debated a wide range of topics from tackling unconscious bias and implementing inclusive recruitment strategies, to attracting a more diverse workforce for the future and building the business case for diversity.

Fiona Triller, programme director of Creating Inclusive Industries talked about how individuals form social stereotypes about certain groups of people outside of their conscious awareness.

“Every single one of us has a bias based on our life experiences,” she said.

There was once again a focus on the next generation of construction workers with free places at the summit for students.

Several students also took part in a panel session led by Julian Buttery, senior employer engagement manager at the Careers and Enterprise Company, where they talked about their experiences in the sector.

“Lots of teachers don’t know a lot about the construction sector and the available roles,” said University of Salford student Racheal Umunna.

There was much discussion around attracting more young people into the industry, as well as how to educate teachers, careers advisers and parents about the breadth of career opportunities available in construction.

“In Europe engineers are classed with doctors and surgeons and given a higher social profile than they are in this country,” panellist Neil Conlon, business development manager at Conlon Construction told delegates.

“We are constantly comparing ourselves to others which can hold us back,” said resilience and talent coach Anthony Taylor who asked the audience to think about their personal brand and what it says about them.

Mark McBride-Wright, founder of EqualEngineers, talked about positive action and how a more inclusive conversation around diversity can be curated. He also shared some findings from EqualEngineers’ masculinity in Engineering Survey.

There was much discussion among panellists over opening up the industry, breaking down barriers, creating inclusive workplaces and retention of staff.

“We are constantly comparing ourselves to others which can hold us back”

Anthony Taylor

Mental Skills Trainer & Talent Coach, Facilitator & Speaker

The conference was rounded off with a session led by Joscelyne Shaw, director of strategy at Mates in Mind, a charity which was set up to raise awareness, address the stigma of poor mental health and promote positive mental wellbeing in construction and related industries across the UK.

Outlining Mates in Minds’ achievements and the work that it has done since it was set up two years ago, she focused on promoting cultures of positive wellbeing throughout the industry.

She told delegates that 3 out of 5 employees experience mental health issues because of work and talked about changing behaviours.

The Summit was supported by British Board of Agrément, CABE, the CIOB, easy-trim, Housing Diversity Network, the National Association of Women in Construction, Procure Plus, Redrow Homes and RICS.

As well as attending the conference, delegates had the chance to talk to a diverse selection of companies, which were showcasing their work in the exhibition space.

The Summit was followed by the Inspire Awards, celebrating diversity and inclusion in UK construction, engineering & housing.