Construction firms do not need another racial inequality review to tell them what to do - we know what makes a difference, now let’s get on with it, says Mary Pierre-Harvey
I have read many Black Lives Matter statements from organisations and, although this is great to see, I wonder how many black workers were consulted on and feel supported by the contents of those statements. This makes me wonder what further action needs to take place now to build upon the Black Lives Matter issues currently being aired.
In response to the protests of recent weeks, Boris Johnson has just announced a new cross-governmental commission into racial inequality which he hopes will tell us what more should be done.
I have first-hand experience of the glass ceilings placed above black workers in the industry
While we await details about this latest commission’s remit, timetable and terms of reference for yet another report (there have been numerous reviews in recent years), organisations can get on with implementing the following actions:
- There must be a genuine admission that structural racism actually exists in organisations. Change begins with admission.
- Ambitious black workers including professionals need to see people like themselves recruited, retained, and promoted to the boards and executive leadership, fulfilling active and meaningful roles.
- Facilitate a black workers network or group where they can share their experiences and support each other in a safe space without fear.
- Ensure representation of the black workers network on the board and executive leadership where recommendations can be put forward, discussed and decisions taken on issues of race equality and inclusion, acknowledging that some of these discussions might be uncomfortable.
- Change our conscious or unconscious racially biased stereotypical thinking of black people through investing in regular staff training. This would help workers to see each other as equals.
- Examine data on ethnicity and pay gaps in the organisation, take positive action where required and report the outcomes within the organisation. Maybe the new commission can recommend incentives for organisations that address this inequality.
- Actively promote race equality from the board and publish achievements. Policies and procedures do not in themselves achieve race equality but are worthwhile if they achieve the intended results.
- Consider reverse mentoring by black workers.
- Actively seek out, monitor, and celebrate diversity achieved in supply chains.
The wonderfully diverse nature of the work carried out by the construction industry lends itself to a range of opportunities across many disciplines and skills from which all workers including black workers can benefit, develop, and excel. Many success stories already exist and many more need to be shared.
I have first-hand experience of the glass ceilings placed above black workers in the industry. I acknowledge that change will not happen overnight, but if black Lives really matter, then I urge organisations to give black workers a truly equal chance across all levels of the industry and not wait for yet another report into race equality to tell us what we already know we should be doing.
Mary Pierre-Harvey is a consultant estates executive