Placing the spotlight on people, not just data.
Barbour ABI are creating a monthly series documenting the best the construction industry has to offer. Not organisations, not data-led research, but the people, those people that are championing a cause or producing excellent work in a particular field of expertise.
Our Focus This Month: Diversity
In the construction industry, diversity and inclusion are becoming a hot topic, with many seeing them as critical to enhancing productivity, improving morale, and ensuring that all employees feel appreciated and respected in the workplace. The UK workforce is becoming more diverse, with ethnic minorities accounting for 12%, and the need to improve recruitment to eliminate bias and incorporate more women employees necessitates efforts to modify public perceptions of construction employment.
Many key leaders in the construction industry believe that promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion is a morally and culturally important aspect of a successful culture and better for the economy
This month Barbour ABI is paying tribute to those amazing people that are supporting construction with a passion for what they do, giving kudos to those who are at the forefront of driving diversity and inclusion change, operationally and socially.
Dr Jan Peters MBE,
Director @ Katalytik Limited
Jan was an outspoken advocate for diversity, leading and participating in research initiatives and advisory boards to bring about change in the construction industry.
Bio and Background:
Jan got her start in science writing after reading an article in a magazine that recommended pursuing a degree in chemistry and oceanography. She earned a PhD in Electronics Materials after studying the subject at the University of Plymouth. Because of her unconventional approach to the established quo, she was invited to join the Women’s Engineering Society, where she eventually served as president. With time, she began to advocate for more equality and diversity in the science and engineering fields, removing gender biases and allowing more women to be hired and do tasks securely and comfortably.
Jan launched Katalytik in 2004, to promote more equality in science and engineering, where experience and expertise are valued over appearance. Jan is currently a multi-award winner in the fields of diversity and business, as well as the recipient of an MBE for her dedication and service to women to achieve parity.
After managing the HE STEM-funded Set-to-Lead project in 2010, Jan worked as an external consultant with UCL Engineering, addressing diversity in engineering, before joining the team as a design lead for the Integrated Engineering Programme. The Set-To-Lead programme was created to establish a set of materials to help people enhance their employability skills and build a more inclusive and courteous workplace.
Jan created a series of resources to improve employability skills, foster a pleasant, inclusive, and respectful work environment, and increase the number of female engineers with the technical skills needed to be successful.
Senior Inclusive Design Consultant & Trainer @ Buro Happold
Jean Hewitt, a pioneer of quality and equity through good, quality design and appropriate management of the built environment for nearly 20 years.
Bio and Background:
Jean Hewitt is a well-known advocate for promoting equity, well-being, and conducting accessibility studies in complex buildings or design appraisals for new build environment projects. She began her work as a chartered surveyor after earning an MSc in Facility and Environment Management from UCL, and she later became a member of the National Register of Access Consultants. She has worked in inclusive environments for nearly 20 years, including indoor buildings and outdoor surroundings in the UK and abroad, whether they be iconic sites or public buildings.
Jean led a project that resulted in the first set of guiding principles for the design of the built environment to include people with sensory and neurological processing issues, which can have a negative influence on mental health. The PAS 6463 Design delivers information for designers, planners and facilities to ensure design features are inclusive of sensory design, addressing lighting, acoustics and flooring, intending to decrease sensory overload, anxiety when making decisions of building design features.
Jean is also a board member for the Built Environment Professional Education (BEPE) project run by the Construction Industry Council and holds a key interest in sensory access and wellbeing in the built environment.
The British Standards Institution (BSI) has released its first building design recommendations for people with neurological impairments such as autism and other sensory processing disorders. The engineering community has become more cognizant of neurodiversity and the neurological process.
PAS 6463 – Design for the mind — Neurodiversity and the Built Environment is the standard’s name, emerging from the project Jean led. The guidelines provide information on design aspects that guarantee public spaces are accessible to all people, with a focus on reducing sensory overload and anxiety. The BSI includes design factors such as lighting, acoustics, flooring, and décor.
In April 2021, the standard will be implemented in the built environment, thanks to the support of Transport for London and Buro Happold.
“I believe we all have a responsibility to ensure we are shaping the world equitably and inclusively. The Construction Industry as a collective has an opportunity to do this in an impactful and meaningful way.” – Jean Hewitt
“20% of the population are negatively impacted by elements that could so easily be adjusted or eliminated during design without any cost implications” – Jean Hewitt
Senior EDI Manager @ HS2 Ltd
Osita was at the forefront of embracing change in the construction industry by transforming strategy when it comes to recruiting more diverse employees.
Bio and Background:
Osita Madu has been a human resources professional with over 18 years of experience, specialising in recruitment, training, mediation and diversity & inclusion. His key vision in his role is to manage diversity across a variety of sectors such as housing, media and infrastructure programmes such as High Speed Two (HS2).
His strategic vision in recruiting diverse employees has been very vocal with regards to recruiting employees who are focused on improving construction company operational streamlining and efficiency for long-term success. With the perception being to hire males into the construction industry, Osita is more focused on the skills and behaviours that tailor to the successful direction of the engineering and construction industries.
The National Centre for Diversity launched a new ‘Supply Chain Verification Service’ for suppliers and procurers. The scheme was backed by Construction industry sector leaders, with its objective being to support smaller suppliers to continue to meet certain standards through the support of equality credentials, diversity and inclusion so that contracts can be won from businesses and organisations nationwide.
Osita Madu, who headed the development of the scheme, sees this as a way to track their progress and drive efficiency. What is most important in this scheme is to develop skills in the diversity and inclusion area and to break barriers in the industry.
Founder and Chief Dot-Joiner @ Building People
Rebecca Lovelace is the founder and Chief Dot-joiner at Building People, a social enterprise that is creating connections across the built environment to address the sector challenges of skills, diversity and social impact. Building People is a free-to-use ecosystem and platform that aggregates and integrates with industry-wide activity, enabling people to find employers, opportunities and resources, and employers to connect with a more diverse range of talent.
Bio and Background:
Rebecca has over twenty years’ experience in creating, connecting and enabling organisations, networks and partnerships across the built environment. She is a co-founder of BuildForce, the industry initiative to facilitate connections between ex-military and industry employers, and also a co-founder of Be Onsite, a non-profit company providing training and job opportunities for disadvantaged people in the property sector.
Before discovering the world of construction and the built environment Rebecca worked in the humanitarian aid and homelessness sectors. Rebecca has an MSc in Urban Regeneration and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Rebecca has identified the problem that Building People seeks to resolve as: The UK needs to build; there is a shortage of skilled workers and the workforce we have lacks diversity.
In 2017 she put her consultancy on hold to found Building People, which is now a well-respected and truly collaborative social enterprise that is ‘joining the dots’ between diverse supply and sector demand.
The Building People platform brings together and connects a range of built environment careers opportunities (events, knowledge and vacancies) to a network of grassroots providers that work with diverse and under-represented individuals. Building People is increasing diversity across the built environment by simplifying user journeys and by enabling the sector to collaborate, thus helping to bring about equality of opportunity across a fragmented careers landscape.
Rebecca’s passion is making a difference and her drive and determination has so far brought together over 400 organisations that are committed to increasing diversity across the built environment.
“I founded Building People to drive a joined-up approach to increasing diversity in the built environment workforce because I strongly believe this will enhance innovation, collaboration, and social cohesion. It’s just the right thing to do and we have to do it together. Give me one good reason why you shouldn’t join in?” – Rebecca Lovelace
Inclusion and Diversity Manager @ Skanska
Christina Houlgrave has eight years of experience in the global constructions industry in countries such as Sweden, the UK and Norway.
Bio and Background:
Christina Houlgrave has been part of a variety of global construction projects in her eight years in the industry. She was placed within the top 30 talent pool as part of Skanska’s Leadership Development Program and touted as a rising star in the industry. Christina was also a winner of the Acre365 recognition program due to her application of economics, where she put a monetary value on the economic, environmental, and social impacts of Skanska to develop positive change.
Christina’s focus has always been to develop a diverse and cultural ecosystem that focuses on acquiring the top talent without any bias or discrimination. She has adopted this approach for major projects such as the Gherkin, M25 and Crossrail, where many workers came from BAME backgrounds.
Christina Houlgrave spoke to stakeholders to create a monetary model for Skanska’s value to society. This led to the creation of an Accounting for Sustainability award at the board level.
Now, Skanska’s sustainability practitioners are welcome to understand business needs and update protocol to promote better accountability of built environment information, such as comparison of legal frameworks, making data available for building performance gaps, and environmental impacts through tenant engagement programs.
Director EDI Construct Ltd. Director LGBT Construct Limited, Co-Founder Building Equality & Founder Construct-Ability. Senior Planner Quinn London
As part of Christina’s equity, diversity, and inclusion advocacy work, she has partaken in over 150 diversity and intersectionality talks to the construction industry & beyond. She has recently given talks globally in the USA & Australia with Engineering News Record and Procore.
Bio and Background:
Christina Riley is a Senior Planner at Quinn London & has worked in the construction industry for 29 years. As a trans woman in construction she has pioneered LGBT + inclusion in the industry. Her current roles include Director for EDI Construct Ltd and LGBT Construct Limited, Co-Founder of Constructability, the disability and non-visible disability and neurodiversity for the construction, Co-founder of Building Equality LGBT+ industry network and housing sectors. Christina is vice chair of the CIOB Diversity Advisory Committee and sits on the Construction Industry Council Diversity Committee. Christina is a FIR (Fairness Inclusion Respect) Ambassador, and a CITB Ambassador and was recently awarded UK Construction Week role model of the year 2021
Christina has been an instrumental voice of inclusion in the sector and has launched several LGBT networks including at MACE and Highways England. Christina collaborated with the Environment Agency to run a LGBT event highlighting the B in LGBT+, at the Thames Barrier to voice the need for recruiting more LGBT engineers & improved culture change. Christina founded LGBT toolbox talks in 2015 and has delivered to over 1000 site operatives on LGBT inclusion & site safety. In recognition of her work, she won the Corporate Rising Star at the British LGBT Awards in 2017 and promotes the link between LGBT+ identities, mental health, psychological safety and site safety in construction.
Christina Riley transitioned from male to female when working at Balfour Beatty in the construction industry in 2014. Her transition was a catalyst for change. Christina has participated in various careers advice talks as a CITB Construction Ambassador, regularly speaking about Diversity and Inclusion, and she works with Executive Sponsors to continue to raise awareness of greater diversity and inclusion in the Construction Industry.
Christina has given over 150 industry talks on fairness, respect, diversity, and inclusion at work, which led to her winning the Role Model of the year at UK Construction Week.
Some of the projects Christina has been involved in include V & A Museum, Wexham Park A & E Hospital, British Airways World Cargo Centre; All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, the Wimbledon 20-year plan, Lakeside Shopping Centre, Thurrock, and 15 high-rise Accommodation Blocks at the Olympic Village, Stratford as an Assistant at Try Construction.
Christina has raised over £10,000 for LGBT and mental health charities through riding 970 miles in 9 days on the Ride Across Britain event 3 years running since 2016 ,riding from Lands’ End to Jon o’ Groats.
Rick Lee OBE,
Chief People Officer @ Willmott Dixon
Rick has a passion for equality and diversity and was instrumental in promoting women leadership at Willmott Dixon.
Bio and Background:
Rick Lee began his career at Shell in the Middle East before moving into various roles at QA plc. Moving to Willmott Dixon, Lee has enormous credibility when it comes to equality and diversity in the company. He heads up Leadership Excellence, designed to promote outstanding women leaders.
Willmott Dixon is consistently one of the top five construction companies to work for in The Sunday Times. As Chief People Officer, Rick has spearheaded company culture to think about its people. The company performs regular one-to-ones to discuss development, provide training and incentives that allow the workplace to be an enjoyable place be.
Rick launched the Leadership Development Program to aspire a new generation of women leaders in the next 15 years, and his diversity leadership has seen the company rise to the highest performing construction company in the last two years.
As part of further improvements, Rick is seeking to achieve gender parity across a variety of levels in the company to improve the representation and appreciation of women.
The construction industry is only 13-15% women, but Willmott Dixon boasts 27% women, with an ambitious target of ensuring a 50:50 ratio of male and female workers at the company by 2030.
Willmott Dixon is the UK’s highest placed construction company on the Financial Times’ annual list and coming 43rd out of 850 organizations of the European Leaders for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion.
Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Transformation (EDI) @ Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)
Marks dedication has resulted in a change of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the construction industry, with more and more people having access to possibilities and practises that benefit the economy in ways other than building.
Bio and Background:
Mark Harrison has extensive experience in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), spearheading initiatives for fairness and inclusion in the workplace. Effective as a leader and influencer, his career comprised of successfully securing strategy buy-ins and leveraged influencer skills to serve 25 diversity ambassadors.
Today, he is the Head of EDI Transformation at CIOB, transforming the company’s approach to equality, diversion and inclusion, driving positive cultural change and ensuring that CIOB is considered more widely inclusive in the years to come. His EDI strategies have been formulated at various other institutes during his career.
Construction continues to remain a male-dominated industry, with 13-15% of the workforce being women, but less than 6% for BAME people. Mark developed an inclusion and diversity strategy at The Children’s Society called ‘Pulling Out All The Stops’, with the three-year plan being recognised at the Chartered Institute of Housing.
Mark was also the Head of Inclusion at the University of London, delivering a SMART diversity and inclusion strategy to ensure internal performance levels are enhanced. Mark’s work continued at Metropolitan, with a three-year strategy of housing and social care actions, communications, procurement and policy. Metropolitan is now considered a sector lead on diversity and inclusion and was registered in the ‘Top 50 employers for Women’ in The Times.
“There is clearly an appetite for positive change at the CIOB and within the sector.” – Mark Harrison
“I would emphasise that the EDI agenda is not limited to considerations of gender and race. We must also consider the barriers faced by those with other characteristics such as disability, faith and sexual orientation and, of course, the intersections of those characteristics” – Mark Harrison
Change is now becoming more apparent in the construction industry to transform the definition of construction to a diverse and inclusive environment, thanking the following champions who have been at the forefront of changing the industry’s culture.
Barbour ABI is paying tribute to the incredible people on this list who pioneer a diverse and inclusive industry, giving kudos in construction to those who are keen to see a change in the perception of construction and to make diversity more welcome.
If you liked reading this report then check out our previous editions here.