Being an agent for change

John Boughton on his role to create a more diverse workplace

Our industry has come a long way since I first joined as a young building technician in 1993. Back then terms such as ‘diversity’ or ‘gender balanced teams’ did not figure much on construction sites or in management vocabulary.

How far we have come! Fast forward 26 years and it really does feel like a different world. Change is happening at a quick rate as we all recognise that achieving gender parity will make us a better, more sustainable industry for our people and customers.

I first saw this in my company about five years ago when we set up our gender steering group to come up with tangible ways to have a more diverse workforce and to recognise the increase in performance that this would bring. Our female headcount was around one in four then, but was quickly targeted to increase up to 2 in 4 across all grades by 2030.

Nothing like a real challenge!

This has made me consider my own understanding about unfulfilled potential and the contribution I need to make as a senior manager to tackling this issue.

It immediately struck me that even the little things make a difference. Such as the conversation on attracting more women should not unintentionally make our male colleagues feel threatened or excluded.

In my leadership role, another issue I am tackling is that many colleagues working on a site don’t always realise the reasons why we need more diversity or how we need to adapt sites to make them more inclusive environments. This includes a willingness to call out behaviours and attitudes that don’t support an inclusive workplace.

Balance equals success

Balanced and diverse teams breed success. McKinsey’s 2017 report showed that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.

The solution is not positive discrimination - the best person should always be the person undertaking the role - but making our industry attractive to the widest possible talent pool by being flexible and agile enough to the requirements of a tech-savvy, diverse workforce.

That means senior managers like myself making it a priority in how we promote agile working to support the broader life balance people require, such as not working late every night or flexibility to take the kids to school.

An inclusive place to work unquestionably promotes higher levels of professionalism and performance as well as making our offices and sites more enjoyable place for teams to thrive.

The day-to-day influence and support of management teams in encouraging and supporting this positive change is key!