Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Construction

By Lynn Pearcey, MBA, Copywriter, AIA Contract Documents

March 31, 2024


Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are hot-button issues in the workplace, and it looks like they’re only going to get hotter, which is good news. With each passing year, more companies are becoming more receptive to the concept and committed to building work environments where employees feel valued. They’re not numbers, roles, or titles but real people with recognizable identities that go beyond their work descriptions, which is where this value proposition of DEI resides.

At the core of this belief is the celebration of employees based on their differences. In times past, separation was the rule of the day, as many felt as if they were left out or cast aside because of who they were. This new school of thought embraces what makes employees unique, fostering a sense of belonging that improves the quality of the office and the work. In the early days of the DEI movement, adoption was slow, but in recent years, the pace has quickened considerably across the board in every business segment, including construction.

Construction and DEI

 When it comes to the makeup of the workforce, the construction industry has historically been dominated by white males. Very little diversity exists, especially in the ranks of management where strategies are formed and key business and hiring decisions are made. Research shows that 90% of the construction industry is white and male, while this group makes up 78% of the combined US Labor Force. These are truths that the construction industry can’t get around, but a move is afoot to change this reality, and leaders have only one group to thank for this: themselves. Firms are embracing the need for change, but to see the full impact of DEI in their space, several steps can be taken including:

  1. Continue making it about real change and not just checking a box: Too many companies create a DEI program but are only committed to doing the surface work—checking the box—without making any real effort to achieve sustainable change. If the construction industry is to build on the positive trend of increasing hiring for females and minorities, purpose, not vanity, must remain the focus.
  2. Holding key managers and leaders accountable: Leaders and those in higher management set the tone for DEI programs. When they place an emphasis on these programs, the staff follows their lead. Over the next decade, construction companies must hire and groom leaders and managers who share in the DEI vision. Their buy-in is critical to the continued growth the industry has seen of late.
  3. Embracing realities: The demographics of the nation are changing with minorities and women becoming majorities in some instances. They’re viable candidates and the reality that they are becoming the actual talent pool should be embraced. By doing so early, firms will win the PR battle and at the same time, continue growing by hiring viable, talented professionals.
  4. Make it a culture: Weaving DEI into the fabric of an organization helps it become a culture instead of a passing trend. It’s important not to understand that when an employee feels accepted and feels that the culture is one they can thrive in, the entire organization wins, not just the employee. With that said, the importance of making DEI a sustained cultural shift can’t be overemphasized.


 One thing is for sure. DEI and those who support and have been calling it have shown it’s not a fad, trend, or movement that can be ignored. It’s real, as is the value it can deliver to an organization. For the construction industry to thrive, leaders must continue to show up, put in the necessary work, and challenge their staff members to do the same. With the look, feel, and face of the construction industry continuing to evolve, building programs that attract and align with the principles of DEI are no longer a luxury. In this changing world where diversity, equity, and inclusion are becoming the norm, embracing and integrating these initiatives into daily operations is necessary.

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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 provide 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.