We hear a lot these days about diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts to create an inclusive work culture for all workers regardless of gender, race, age or disability. By now most companies know they need to do more to provide such a workplace environment. However, not everyone knows where to start or has good access to tools and information that would help launch a meaningful program.
Diversity and Inclusion in Construction and Engineering, or DICE, is a new peer collaboration group formed to discuss the most pressing issues around D&I, aiming to address possible solutions and advocate for real change in the industry. DICE’s founders made up of businesses of various sizes and specialties across construction and engineering, aim to bridge the D&I knowledge gap for companies and demonstrate how working to create a diverse and inclusive workplace is more than just the right thing to do—it also has real business benefits.
DICE is Born
DICE was kicked off in 2017 by Silvia Siqueira, Diversity & Inclusion Officer for Hilti North America, with key support from Catalyst, which provides research data for topics identified as challenges and opportunities within DICE workshops. The group discussions, together with research data, give credibility to D&I efforts in organizations, Siqueira says.
“In early 2017 I started thinking about how D&I can deliver business results to the organization. To truly position this as a business strategy we need to deliver to the business. Being a value-added organization, we provide solutions to customers. When you build a relationship, you’re really able to identify the needs and applications that customers maybe just haven’t seen yet because you only do what you’ve always done. When an innovative product comes, you need to be receptive to this different perspective,” Siqueira explained.
When an innovative product comes, you need to be receptive to this different perspective.
The following year, piggy-backing on a MARC – Men Advocating Real Change – panel held by Hilti, Siqueira hosted a session designed to talk about the company’s efforts around D&I and share best practices and programs that have been successful for them in the hopes audience members would bring the knowledge back to their own companies. With more than 100 leaders from more than 60 organizations present, Siqueira felt she really had her pulse on something.
“I sent out an invitation saying we need to have a conversation about the state of inclusion in our industry. We have a dialogue, and we need to work on the perception of inclusion. This is beyond being competitors, this is about impacting the industry. There’s a lot we can do if we get together,” she said.
D&I Efforts Must Start at the Top
A few months later, the first DICE meeting was held. It was, at the time, a fairly loose confederation of participants. They spent half a day discussing what form the group should take and whether there was even a need for it. Everyone resoundingly agreed such a group was needed. Since then, the meetings have grown to twice-annual events including workshops and panel discussions, featuring high-profile speakers from every corner of the industry, including Hilti CEO Avi Kahn, who participated to prove the company’s full commitment to its D&I efforts from the top-down. The host organizations, McKinstry, Lendlease, and Shawmut, will gather the group this November.
“We want to share experiences and give D&I practitioners the tools they need to drive the topic in their organizations,” she said. “Until everybody understands that it’s their responsibility and that everybody has an important role to play, it doesn’t get done as part of the DNA of an organization.”
Initiatives that Create Inclusive Leaders
Shawmut Design and Construction is an early supporter of DICE and has spearheaded several of its own initiatives around D&I.
“In order to get that diversity of thought and perspective, you need to have an environment that allows people to feel like they can speak up,” explained Dave Margolius, Vice President of Retail at Shawmut.
“It’s a huge component within Shawmut to create inclusive leaders, understanding some of the technicalities behind our unconscious biases and how to break through that and get everybody being their best selves here.”
Margolius said part of how Shawmut achieves this is through its Shawmut Flex program. The program allows employees to improve work/life integration. The schedule flexibility ensures they can balance their jobs and other aspects of their lives, for example, caring for children or an aging parent.
Many companies have a gap of diversity and representation in more senior roles. One way to short-circuit that is by having mentoring and sponsorship.
Another initiative is Shawmut’s mentoring and sponsorship programs, designed to help underrepresented groups find a path to ascend to senior leadership.
“It’s an old adage, ‘if you can’t see them, you can’t be them,’” Margolius said. “Many companies have a gap of diversity and representation in more senior roles. One way to short-circuit that is by having mentoring and sponsorship. We’re currently crafting our mentorship program and we’ve put plan to action on our sponsorship efforts in order to change the landscape of our senior leadership.”
Even with the knowledge at your fingertips and a supportive community, how and where to begin with D&I efforts is something that can be overwhelming for some companies. To start things off on the right foot, Margolius recommends finding an outside partner, such as a consultant. They can bring a neutral, third-party perspective on your plans, which could give the findings more credibility among naysayers, he said.
Another key component Margolius cites is understanding not just where you’re going in your company’s D&I efforts, but why you’re going there.
“Aligning a strategy around D&I with your company mission is very important. I think every organization involved in DICE, Procore, certainly Shawmut, literally put their mission statement up there and asks if this work is going to align with this mission to make the change,” he said.
“You have to have those things fundamentally linked together, otherwise it’s a program, or a Band-Aid, or something that is not built to be sustainable. For Shawmut, D&I is something that’s ingrained, that’s foundational. It links to everything we are and why we exist as an organization, to begin with. When you’re approaching it that way it’s just so much different.”
Interested in learning more about building and fostering diversity and inclusion into your company culture? The Procore Building Inclusion program offers three different courses, each addressing specific features for fostering inclusion. The free courses open on September 4.