Diversity has been a persistent problem in construction industries and while many organizations are striving towards a diverse and inclusive workplace, it is essential to admit that racism and exclusionary behavior are still evident in the industry, a Canadian Construction Association webinar heard this week.
Four panelists in the webinar, moderated by MHCA Chair Nicole Chabot, shared their perspectives on how we can recognize that employers and workers in the industry have the power, an obligation and the ability to change course to create a more inclusive culture, remove bias and promote diverse approaches.
The webinar, part of the CCA’s Hill Days event in Ottawa, attracted some 40 participants and was led by Chabot and panelists Stephen Callender, President of the Afro Canadian Contractors Association; Tim Laronde, National Director, Indigenous Strategies, Chandos Construction; Lisa Stevens, Chief Strategy Officer, British Columbia Construction Association; and Karen Walsh, Executive Director/Project Consultant, Office to Advance Women Apprentices.
Chabot led off the discussion by explaining what drives her, as a leader in the industry and a heavy civil contractor, to champion diversity. She said as part of third-generation company leadership, she has had good mentorship and the good experiences far outweighed the negatives.
“It never occurred to me that I didn’t belong somewhere or couldn’t be part of something because I am a woman or because I am Indigenous,” Chabot said. “And because that sense of connection is still exceptional, I’m driven to do what I can to support inclusivity, remove barriers and promote acceptance of diversity in our industry.
“The more I learn and experience, I believe diversity and inclusion are key to the future success of our industry.”
Among the topics the panelists discussed were
- What challenges organizations face in promising a diverse and inclusive culture
- What personal encounters or observations of racism/discrimination and how it was addressed
- What programs are available in Canada to assist under-represented groups in introducing them to the construction industries
- What challenges employers have when it comes to addressing inclusivity
- Successful techniques for organizations to become more inclusive and diverse
This webinar was concluded with a reminder to visit the CCA website for more diversity and inclusion resources which includes education resources, toolbox talks, books and video recommendations.