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Awards should reflect diversity efforts too

Mark Hansford

There was just one thing awry with an otherwise stonking British Construction Industry Awards last week. And I’m a bit sad about it.

There was just one thing awry with an otherwise stonking British Construction Industry Awards last week. And I’m a bit sad about it.

It certainly wasn’t the projects: they were outstanding. And it wasn’t the speakers: in Crown Estates chief executive Alison Nimmo and ICE president Geoff French they were inspiring and in Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow we had a real ally and enthusiast.

And it wasn’t those in the audience: all 1,200 of them packing out the Grosvenor House Hotel were enthusiastic and engaged.

BCIA 2014

No, it was the make-up of the project teams taking to the stage to collect the awards: almost to a man - and I use the term advisedly - they were male, middle-aged and white.

Which is a shame, as I’m pretty sure the teams actually delivering the projects were distinctly more diverse than that. I mean, Crossrail - in winning Programme Manager of the Year - sent up an army to collect the award, but an army consisting of only men. I pick on Crossrail because I know for a fact that Crossrail is a more diverse organisation than that.

And I’m sure many more of the projects were too. Which is why I’m a bit sad.

It definitely felt like an opportunity missed; and I’d like to urge - implore even - next year’s finalists to give a little more thought to who they’d like to propel onto the stage to collect their award should they win.

It’s important because the BCI Awards remain the outstanding showcase for our profession. All of the shortlisted UK projects enjoyed a visit from at least three of our judges. It is a time consuming and rigorous process and only truly great projects win through.

Judging is not simply a matter of selecting projects which demonstrate the highest engineering or architectural merit. Decisions are made after consideration of the entire construction process from initial conception to final commissioning and use of the completed infrastructure in a timely and economic fashion, satisfying all the parties involved from the client to the community at large.

Careful assessment of best practice, safety, sustainability and other key issues all come under the judges’ scrutiny.

What we don’t ask about specifically is diversity; and maybe we need to.

We certainly don’t want to encourage tokenism or positive discrimination, but maybe more should be done to encourage project teams to promote and showcase their efforts to attract a more diverse workforce.

Most business leaders agree that more diverse teams come up with better solutions, so diversity brings benefits which should be encouraged.

You all can help us here. Better respresentation of genders, ethnicities, cultures and ages across project teams should be naturally reflected in the people who represent their project teams at awards event like NCE’s.

Last week’s awards were truly great: some great projects, some great people and some fantastic achievements recognised. Jon Snow was genuinely enthused and impressed by what he saw - to the extent that he actually wants to go and visit some of the projects which won awards.

So let’s make next year’s even better by making sure they truly represent how we’d like people like Jon to see us: creative; dynamic; diverse. Let’s not miss any more opportunities.

  • Mark Hansford is NCE’s editor

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