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Building an inclusive culture is the right thing to do

By John Birch, Director

For around 18 months I have been working closely with one of our long-term clients, MEPC, and other key members of their supply chain as part of an initiative to encourage more women into the construction industry and promote diversity and inclusion more widely.  The initiative is the brainchild of MEPC’s Commercial Director, Roz Bird, supported by Julia Muir, CEO of Gaia Innovation and founder of the Automotive 30% Club.

Having recently attended the Automotive 30% Club’s 2021 virtual conference where the theme was ‘Change the Game’, it seemed like a good time to capture some of the lessons and insights I’d gained over the last year and a half.

It’s clear to me and my fellow Board Directors that building an inclusive culture is the right thing for Glanville (and any business) to do. Now, more than ever, we need to sei

ze the benefits a more inclusive workplace culture brings to recruitment and retention, particularly amongst younger employees, as well as the potential to improve productivity and profitability. It’s a win-win situation.

The work we’ve been doing with MEPC and their supply chain links in well with the launch of Glanville’s Vision, Mission and Values in late 2019, and the progress we have made subsequently as a business in developing an Action Plan in response to our inaugural Employee Voice survey. The core values we have as a business are underpinned by behaviours, many of which are relevant to diversity and inclusion. We want to be a business that employs a diversity of people and we want to ensure that all of those people feel included and a valuable part of our business.

At the Automotive 30% Club’s Change the Game conference, it struck me that, historically, there are a lot of similarities between the construction and automotive sectors. Both are traditionally male dominated, but more than that, the men who work is these industries are also predominantly white, heterosexual and able-bodied, with senior managers also mainly drawn from middle class backgrounds.

It was inspiring to hear top executives in the automotive industry talk about the journey their businesses have been on in the last few years, and the progress they have made. I sense the construction industry is some way behind automotive in becoming more gender-balanced, particularly when it comes to manual workers on construction sites, but it was encouraging to hear that the change in the automotive industry, whilst significant and sustainable, didn’t happen overnight, and there’s still a long way to go.

Until recently, I would have told you that Glanville was doing pretty well in terms of gender-balance, with 25% of our total employees being women, a figure that is also broadly reflected in the teams I manage – Civil Engineering and Transport & Highways.

However, it was only through calculating Glanville’s gender pay gap recently (something we are not obliged to do as a business because of our size but have chosen to do) that it became glaringly apparent the vast majority of our female employees are in relatively junior and lower paid roles – we have no women on our board of directors and only one woman in a management position (Associate grade and higher). This information puts a different perspective on that 25% figure and highlights the fact that we still have a lot of work to do.

That said, we have some very capable women at Glanville who we hope will take up senior roles in the future, but we need to actively support them through coaching, mentoring and sponsorship to ensure they reach their potential, if not with us, then within the wider construction industry. Too many females are choosing to take another career path entirely. This is an industry-wide issue that needs addressing.

It’s been reassuring to learn that measuring success is all about the data – music to the ears of an Engineer! We’ve adapted our Employee Voice survey for 2020 to incorporate a range of questions that capture data on the diversity of our existing workforce to provide a baseline to track progress over time. We are now actively working to develop aspects of our Employee Voice Action Plan in response

to the latest data with the express objective of building a more gender-balanced and diverse workforce, with future surveys to be used to measure our progress and inform our strategic decisions.

The valuable lessons and insights we have gained so far from being part of the MEPC-led initiative have informed our key areas of focus to increase diversity at Glanville. These are:

  1. Making diversity a stated aim of our business strategy and culture.
  2. Ensuring our recruitment strategy delivers diverse candidates.
  3. Investing in coaching and development to develop our talent

This is just the start of our journey and we are aware that there is so much more work to do, but it is exciting to think where it will lead – watch this space!

What more do you think our industry needs to do to address this issue?