In this blog, we take a moment to reflect on Black History Month and the importance of diversity and representation in the construction industry.
While progress has been made to make the construction industry more inclusive, a 2019 report found that just 6% of those working in the construction industry come from minority ethnic backgrounds.
When that figure is compared to the 14% of the UK population who come from a minority ethnic background, it highlights the diversity problem facing the sector.
Each year in October the nation celebrates the contributions and achievements of the Black community as a part of Black History Month. We wanted to do our part and highlight the achievements of architects, contractors or influencers accomplishing great things, big and small, within the built environment.
Here are some examples of those embarking on remarkable projects: ·
- Sir David Adjaye (Adjaye Associates – architecture practice) Adjaye Associates
- Yinka Illori (Yinka Illori Studios working in architecture, interior design and public spaces) - Yinka Ilori Studio - Yinka Ilori Studio
- Black Females in Architecture (A network enterprise for black females within the architecture and the built environment- Black Females In Architecture (blackfemarc.com)
- Ashville Aggregates (A YouTube influencer in waste management for all construction materials) - Ashville - YouTube
The month is also an opportunity for education and reflection, so
we wanted to speak to our Knauf colleagues about their personal experiences working in the industry and their thoughts on Black History Month.
Viviane Williams, Knauf UK & Ireland's Brand & Communications Manager, started off by explaining that for her, “Black History Month is a celebration of how the black community has produced, developed, collaborated, enhanced and continues to strive, all be it in face of oppression in different guises.”
A similar sentiment was shared by David Weekes, Knauf UK & Ireland’s National Flooring Project Specification Manager, who told us that he sees the national celebration as a “recognition of the often-undocumented achievements and successes of ethnic minorities.”
HR Apprentice, Sarah Olusola added: “Black History Month demonstrates that being black is not something to be ashamed of, but something to be empowered by. It is a month that motivates me to strive for excellence even when all odds are against me."
Sam Agyemang-Asare, one of our newest Technical Support Trainees, expressed how moving to the UK from Ghana in 2019 changed his perspective saying: “Now that I’m living in the UK it actually means a lot to me to celebrate Black History Month. It reminds me of where I’m from and it also reminds me of the history of the UK and Ghana, both the good and the bad. The history of colonisation has always been a strong motivator for me, pushing me to always do my best.”
Considering the experiences, influence and achievements of the Black community is particularly important in spaces where there is a pronounced lack of diversity.
It goes without saying that improving diversity in any industry is an important endeavour for countless reasons. One of those being that inclusive workplaces have been shown to achieve more positive outcomes. A study by decision-making platform, Cloverpop, found that diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time and perform 60% better than average.
A more diverse workforce will mean we have better, more representative ideas that deliver for all employees, clients and customers. Viviane described the benefits of working in an environment where different perspectives can be shared, saying: “We benefit from learning about others’ cultures, experiences and mindsets. It enriches our own experience and our work.” Representation really does matter.
David also pointed out that increasing representation improves diversity. “Increasing representation is important as the more people there are in an industry that you relate to, albeit subconsciously, the more likely you are to join it and the more confidence you will have to do so.”
It is often the case that the higher up the ranks of a business you go, the less diverse it becomes. This is something that is true of the construction industry and more work needs to be done to improve representation at all levels.
Having worked in the construction industry for almost 20 years, David reported that his experience of Knauf has been a positive one. He said: “Knauf is without a doubt the most diverse company I have worked for. The diversity at different levels of the business is unlike anything I’ve experienced in the industry.”
We finish with a comment from Sarah: “Usually, I would’ve been hesitant to speak about this, but then I thought that if the black community in my company don’t speak on it, who will?”
Thank you to Viviane, David, Sam and Sarah for sharing their thoughts and experiences with us. Given all the positive benefits improving diversity in the workforce brings, we hope that the industry continues to move in the right direction.
Knauf will certainly be doing its part.