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February 18, 2022

Prioritizing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Construction Industry

There has been plenty of news surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) over the past couple of years, and the reality is that we aren’t a free nation until everyone is invited to succeed. The question for individual companies and leaders is how can they make it happen?

To answer this question Leon Harden, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategy Manager at Burns and McDonnell, a full-service construction and engineering firm, joins our host Mike Merrill to discuss how his company, with over 120 years of experience, embraced DEI initiatives. In this episode, Leon shares the best DEI initiatives to start with, how to embrace failure as part of the process, the impact DEI has on a talent shortage and how DEI isn’t just altruistic.


Key Takeaways

  1. DEI initiatives should start out small. When looking to increase the DEI of your teams and staff, no company should make knee-jerk reactions. A successful DEI initiative is purposeful, specific and done one piece at a time. There is no reason to push out your current skilled labor and leaders due to their lack of diversity, instead be mindful in each opportunity to increase your DEI.
  2. Increasing awareness in non-traditionally AEC communities can solve shortages. There are entire groups of people that have not been targeted by the AEC community as potential recruits, and the number of people left on the sidelines more than makes up for the shortages we are experiencing today. It won’t solve the problem overnight, but including and engaging those communities ensures that, in the future, labor shortages will not drive job site decisions.
  3. DEI isn’t just the right thing to do it’s the smart thing to do. Normally DEI initiatives are framed as altruistic actions from companies that care, but the reality is that it’s just smart business. Sometime in the next 20 years, the US will experience a shift in the diversity of the general population, and businesses that embrace that inevitability will find success.