Robinson+Cole’s Construction Law Group hosted its first industry-wide, virtual roundtable on the topic of diversity and inclusion (“D&I”) on September 17, 2020. The program grew out of an earlier Roundtable conversation and focused specifically on strategies and techniques to promote diversity and inclusion in the construction industry. Recognized diversity & inclusion program leaders across the northeast area from government agencies, construction industry organizations, contractor and sub-contractor firms, suppliers, and architectural and engineering firms joined the closed-panel, working-group discussion.

During the two-hour discussion, participants addressed the following topics:

  • The evolution of the construction’s industry’s approach to D&I, as Equal Employment Opportunity & Affirmative Action compliance, and as a factor for financial growth;
  • Internal Workforce Development, such as retaining and promoting diverse talent within companies; shifting company cultures and practices to attract diverse talent; and promoting construction careers among young, diverse students; and
  • Procurement/Vendor Pool Diversity & Inclusion Efforts, including government-based initiatives; construction firm practices and efforts creating opportunities for small and minority owned businesses.

An overarching theme of the discussion was the philosophy of “low-effort, high-impact” D&I strategies. As it pertains to shifting workplace culture to be more inclusive, the participants presented and discussed several firm strategies that have been successfully implemented to attain such goals. For example, as a first step in establishing an inclusive workplace culture, several firms have posted mission statements on their respective company webpages.  Some firms have formed employee resource groups to identify and develop LGBTQ allies within the workforce. Others have developed unconscious bias training to identify individual and firmwide biases. Participants raised, however, that inclusivity initiatives have not always been free of challenges and controversy. Companies have faced resistance from some clients when implementing inclusivity measures. To address these challenges, participants discussed managing and recalibrating client expectations to more closely align with the company’s mission of inclusivity.

As it pertains to attracting diverse talent within the industry, participants presented several approaches. For example, one organization practices outreach beginning in middle school to engage and encourage students and their parents to consider the possibility of a career in construction. Other organizations discussed the importance of mentorship and recruitment programs staffed with mentors and recruiters of diverse backgrounds reflective of the community’s demographic. Participants agreed that an overhaul of the recruitment process may be necessary to attract diverse talent. A “blind resume” policy is one technique which has helped effectuate change. This involves stripping resumes of any identifiable information such as candidate names, schools attended, and affiliations with organizations, prior to passing on the resumes to the decisionmakers. Equally important is creating a diverse hiring team to review the blind resumes.

The session concluded with agenda items remaining, and all participants expressed interest in continuing the D&I discussions. Based on participant feedback, Robinson+Cole’s Construction Group is putting together a plan to continue the dialog as it relates to future progress of D&I in the construction industry. We would like to thank the following participants for attending and sharing their valuable insights:

  • Richard Bergan, Vice President and Head of Business Development, Bergan Architectural Woodworking
  • Kacie Brewer, Diversity & Inclusion Manager, United Rentals, Inc.
  • Gina Calabro, Executive Director & CEO, American Institute of Architects Connecticut Chapter (AIA-CT)
  • Paolo Campos, Associate Principal, Patriquin Associates
  • Joseph DeLong, Executive Director & CEO, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM)
  • Maximilian Hartman, Senior Virtual Design & Construction Engineer, National Chair of the Gilbane Pride Employee Resource Group, Gilbane Building Company
  • Maura Hesdon, General Manager, Shoemaker Construction Company
  • Brynn Huneke, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)
  • Mitchell Joseph, Engineering Team Leader/Project Manager, Consulting Engineering Services (CES)
  • Steven McKessey, Vice President, Lehrer Cumming
  • John Mena, Operations Manager, Diversity Construction Group
  • Noel Petra, Deputy Commissioner for Real Estate and Construction Services, Department of Administrative Services of Connecticut
  • Gustavo Rodriguez, Partner & Design Director, FX Collaborative
  • Shannon Rodriguez, Human Resources Director, FX Collaborative

We would also like to give a special thanks to Elizabeth Velez, President of Velez Organization and Chairperson of the New York Building Congress, for assisting us with program content and development.