A critical evaluation of diversity and equality in the UK construction sector
Historically, recruitment by the UK construction industry has been homogeneous, with a marked propensity for organisations to attract, recruit and select white nondisabled men. This makes construction the most white and male-dominated of all major industrial sectors. Previous research on women's and ethnic minorities' experiences within construction have shown that the industry reproduces a white male culture in which women and ethnic minorities experience marginalisation, discrimination, disempowerment, prejudice and 'glass ceilings' to their career progression. This, in turn, leads to vertical segregation within construction firms. Despite the under representation and underachievement of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people within the industry, little is known of the views and experiences of key construction industry stakeholders on workforce diversity and the potential impact that this has on promoting the diversity and equality agenda. Accordingly, this research makes a unique contribution by investigating diversity and equality from the perspective of employers, professional bodies, training organisations and industry policy forums to provide a more holistic understanding of why the industry has failed to diversify its workforce. The findings of the research develop existing theoretical perspectives on the underrepresentation and underachievement of women and ethnic minorities in the industry through an analysis of the cultural and institutional processes which shape the position of women and ethnic minorities. To achieve this, a primarily qualitative methodology was employed for the research in which stakeholder attitudes to workforce diversity were explored using in-depth semi structured interviews. The research also critically evaluated the industry's previous attempts to diversify its workforce using desk-top and case study research methods. Collectively, these investigations revealed the necessary challenges for policy makers to overcome in order to promote positive change within the industry. These included the existence of mutually reinforcing industry structures, customs and practices which systematically reflect and produce inequalities for underrepresented groups. Together, they undermine the delivery of diversity and equality policies and practices. On the basis of the research findings a framework of integrated diversity policy initiatives were developed. These address the need for both structural and cultural change within the sector and behavioural compliance in addition to attitudinal and cultural change. The efficacy of these measures was validated through a high level workshop in which leading industrialists and policy specialists debated and refined the key outcomes of the work. The resulting policy framework has been adopted by the Institution of Civil Engineers as their diversity and equality guidance document.