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Don't ignore ethnic minorities


I refer to the article (NCE 3 February) relating to discrimination in the construction industry.

My perception is that the thrust of the campaign for equality has been geared towards female personnel. There has been total silence with respect to poor representation of ethnic minorities, particularly those of African and Caribbean heritage in the different echelons of the industry as a whole. It appears that this is an issue that the industry would rather not discuss and pretends therefore that it does not exist.

Yet it is a mistake to pretend that the issue of poor equal opportunities for ethnic minorities and the consequence of this for the challenges facing the industry do not matter.

The engineering institutions could give a lead. It is better to manage the issue now and turn it into an opportunity, rather than wait until the rot has set in and then try to manage public relations disasters. The worst scenario for the industry would be to find itself so far behind society or to be labelled as institutionally racist.

There has to be an open and frank discussion about this issue, just as there has been on the issue of poor female representation in the industry. The aim should also be to find out the views and experience of ethnic minorities within the industry who should feel able to express these without fear of recriminations. Such background information can then be used in formulating strategies for the way forward.

As a start, the various equal opportunity initiatives could ensure that there is visible ethnic minority participation and representation in projects.

K Onabolu,

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