Many people can relate to feeling unwelcome in an environment when they don’t see themselves represented. Maybe it’s a television show that only features characters of one race. Or perhaps it’s a membership association that only features leadership of one gender. Sometimes, it isn’t even a matter of feeling unwelcome, but a feeling of being forgotten or ignored. These feelings stem from recognizing that this environment may not be open or accessible.
Simply put, representation matters. It matters not just in the traditional media but also in the workplace and the construction industry is no exception. We want to encourage good talent to show up and join us. We invest a lot of time and energy in recruitment but if we are not mindful of representation in our marketing and communications, we miss out on the opportunity to attract as much skilled labor as possible to our workforce and we can’t fully address construction’s labor shortage.
As one step to heighten diversity and representation in the industry, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and Autodesk recently launched the Construction Diversity Image Library. Let’s explore how the new initiative and others like it can help advance the entire industry.
What Is the Construction Diversity Image Library?
The Construction Diversity Image Library provides a collection of images for use by media to increase visibility and representation in the industry. This library launches with an established series of images featuring a range of diverse people in the construction workforce including women and people of color.
Autodesk commissioned several photoshoots with AGC member firms to create the initial collection of images. Moving forward, Autodesk will continue to add content to the library. Other companies and associations from the design, engineering, and building industry are invited and encouraged to contribute images. Organizations interested in contributing to the library can do so here.
The Construction Diversity Image Library is not for commercial use. Only editors and journalists will be able to use the images for media publications. When used in editorial coverage, these images will be credited to the organization that contributed them to the collection.
How Visual Representation Can Help Address Construction’s Talent Shortage
In 2019 and 2020, the annual workforce survey by AGC and Autodesk uncovered that 80% of contractors say they are unable to find skilled workers. To meet this demand, we must share stories about our industry that reflect how diverse and inclusive it can be. Whether through media or construction business communications, visual representation is vital to attracting new talent the industry drastically needs.
Initiatives like the Construction Diversity Image Library help address bias and build inclusivity in the industry by highlighting a range of people from different backgrounds and experiences in a positive fashion. As the Undercover Recruiter organization puts it, “Showcasing diversity within your brand communications is crucial to attracting diverse talent — if they can’t see themselves represented by your brand, they are less likely to look at you as a potential employer.”
This same organization surveyed 10,000 consumers around the world to study attitudes toward visual representation. Their research found that only 43% of people who feel they have been discriminated against believe they have been well-represented in the media. Even more discouraging is that only 15% say they are well-represented in business communications.
Still, media has a significant leadership role to play in setting a precedent for industry visual representation. This was a key part of a conversation at Autodesk University 2020 where industry publications, including ENR and Construction Business Owner and AGC member firms, participated in the panel discussion, “How the construction industry and media can work together to attract more diversity.” This panel delivered key learnings about the means of creating content focused on diversity and inclusion, advocating for diverse representation, and remaining intentional about representation in media coverage.
Recent Diversity-Focused Initiatives in the Construction Industry
The new Construction Diversity Image Library is just one example of the strides the construction industry is making in encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusion. For over the last year, AGC and Autodesk have been working together to address workforce shortages and create a more diverse industry. In 2020, the organizations teamed up to award grants to 21 construction firms to provide over 300 fall protection harnesses designed for women. This project highlights and addresses the need to meet the diverse needs of talent within the industry.
At the organizational level, many firms are setting ambitious goals to address the talent shortage with diversity in mind. As one example, Laing O’Rourke, the multinational construction company, set a target of employing equal numbers of men and women in its 5,500 global staff by 2033. Laing O’Rourke will also sponsor emerging female leaders and create mandatory inclusivity training programs for senior and hiring managers.
Although there is still significant work to be done, these initiatives show immense promise for driving more diversity in construction.
Lend Your Voice to Create a More Inclusive Industry
We all have a role in creating a better, more inclusive construction industry. If you are looking to join the conversation and lend your voice, learn more by exploring Autodesk’s Advancing the Industry initiatives for resources, upcoming events, and more.