Building a Better DEI Program

By Lynn Pearcey, MBA, Copywriter, AIA Contract Documents

May 29, 2024

DEI: three initials that have received an immense amount of attention in recent years, and as the nation’s demographics continue to shift, chances are they’ll see even more. The prominence of DEI is especially true in workplaces, letting go of paradigms in their hiring practices and embracing the reality that diversity, equity, and inclusion will play a pivotal role in their success. Industries that were able to disregard this truth are now waking up to the reality that to remain competitive, there must be an investment.

This pattern of exclusion includes the construction industry, a sector with historically marginal hiring practices relating to women and minorities, the two groups most impacted by DEI initiatives. For a construction firm, settling on this reality is only half of the battle. The next phase is building a program that embodies core DEI ideals and principles, while integrating these four strategies.

  1. Make Sure leadership is Onboard: Having leadership onboard with DEI initiatives is the first step in creating a successful program. Leadership buy-in is a critical point to consider since, at the current time, most people in construction leadership roles don’t look like those in need of DEI initiatives. Research shows that 84% of the professionals working in construction leadership roles are white males. But with the changing dynamics and minorities, including Hispanics and African Americans, becoming the majority, the need for DEI visionaries with a willingness to accept this reality is dire. The current crop of leadership has begun aging out, so being open-minded and willing to embrace a young minority leader is crucial.
  2. Let Actions Speak Louder Than Words: The greatest challenge facing the move toward DEI in construction is that too many firms are quick to promote their programs, but slow to engage. Checking the box so to speak is common in several industries, but more common in construction due in large part to the historic racial dynamics that govern the field. Construction firms should build programs focus on the disparity between genders and race, sexual harassment training, and other initiatives that highlight the importance of DEI.
  3. Make DEI Part of the Marketing Message: Emphasizing DEI throughout marketing collaterals is a strategy more firms are beginning to adopt for two reasons. First, it communicates the importance of this ideal to current and potential customers, and the staff. Second, it keeps the firm accountable and the slightest deviation from the DEI ideals outlined in the marketing could do significant damage to the brand.
  4. Infuse DEI in Recruiting and Hiring: The face of the nation is changing, and the face of construction will soon be changing, too. For years, top talents have been passed over or forced to choose another career path because the door leading to construction was closed to them. Opening the door in recruiting and hiring practices could provide a significant competitive advantage to firms open to this and, more importantly, secure talented professionals who can grow or protect their marketing standing.


DEI is an important strategic initiative that every construction firm should embrace. With the changing demographics of the workforce pool, building programs that respect their presence and value their needs, is important. DEI matters now, but the programs contractors build today will matter more in the future as current leaders age into retirement. Infusing the programs into the corporate structure will help drive health growth trends, protect the brand, and allow the contractor maintain relevance with prospective clients.

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AIA Contract Documents has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. This article is also not intended to provides guidance as to how project parties should interpret their specific contracts or resolve contract disputes, as those decisions will need to be made in consultation with legal counsel, insurance counsel, and other professionals, and based upon a multitude of factors.