Bob Clark is founder and Executive Chairman at Clayco, a design-build company with more than 30 years of experience in the industry.
For more than a quarter century, I have worked to establish a life and company fueled by the priceless value of diversity. Weaving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives into the workforce adds immeasurable importance to every team and forms integral communities that represent the various demographics that compose society today. DEI-focused enterprises promote human rights, widen viewpoints and maximize productivity with a welcoming and safe atmosphere for everyone. These efforts also provide equal opportunities for ambitious team members to thrive in their roles, have pathways to break into professional industries and start their careers and endeavors.
Guiding a team with innovation and equity can create an environment where individuals feel free to be the best version of themselves. If assembling a multicultural workforce isn’t a substantial incentive simply for cultural and moral reasons, it’s also good for the bottom line of business. Research shows that diversity in executive teams can lead to better financial performance. There are many ways to ensure that your institution is cultivating an inviting and diverse workplace, from adding DEI programs and officials to your teams to adopting useful tracking tools and programs and enabling productive conversations.
Implementing DEI Tools Into Your Business
When I established Clayco 38 years ago, it was my objective to create a full-service, turnkey design-build and construction firm that brought authentic value to the heart of communities. Like many sectors, the building industry desperately needed then—and still needs now—to diversify how to create and occupy spaces. To help meet the need, I made it my purpose to build “beyond the walls” of our structures and offer programs that directly benefit underserved neighborhoods. One of the best ways to stimulate change in any sector is to introduce comprehensive DEI agendas into corporate offerings.
I believe DEI should be imperative for each project and designed to create meaningful opportunities for employees, minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBE), and people who lack pathways to the necessary tools to succeed. Diversity officers are useful for ensuring that a company’s mission toward inclusion and representation remains on track and best serves the team members and partners who need it most. They are trained officials with the experience and knowledge required to handle the inequality-related issues faced by minorities and instill a work culture where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Some tools provide actionable data and insights for your organization to improve performance and promote equity. Leaders should break through the barriers of income, race, sexual orientation and gender to construct inclusive and safe spaces using every available resource.
Boosting Programs For Positive Change
Being an effective leader is about building meaningful change from the ground up. Shifting industries toward DEI begins with our responsibility to step into communities and extend a helping hand. It is our job to advocate for underrepresented groups and do all we can to foster an atmosphere of evolution that highlights the inherent benefits of diversity through comprehensive programs. A great way for enterprises to support people of color and underserved demographics is by implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout company-wide processes. To effectively support these endeavors, it’s crucial to listen to feedback from employees and routinely audit company leadership and policies to ensure that everyone is taking the necessary steps to reach equity goals. Facilitating opportunities, relationships and accountability for all—free of discrimination—if leaders focus heavily on people and philanthropy and follow practices that reflect this mission.
Clayco’s Construction Career Development Initiative (CCDI) works to bring diversity to the construction industry and connect minority youth with career opportunities, mentorships and resources. Only 10.9% of the construction workforce are women and 6.7% are Black or African American, and as of 2018, 46% of workers in the LGTBQ community were closeted at work. Community-based organizations that focus on combating the inequalities and dangers underserved groups continue to face are essential. Establishing positive connections can spark change and directly impact people far and wide.
Constructing And Communicating Inclusivity
We are in a moment in history where there is increasing awareness and even greater receptivity to the challenges that result from systemic racism and inequality. One of the best ways for leaders to foster inclusivity and promote multicultural spaces may also be the simplest—through open conversation. Highlighting and discussing key facts, such as that in 2021, Crist|Kolder Associates found that S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies featured only 20 Latinx CEOs, six Black CEOs and 40 Asian American CEOs, can help people understand why these numbers are shockingly low compared to the general population of these demographics. Teams require the full support of leadership to break through powerful biases in the subconscious mind with anti-discrimination and anti-racism training and open, honest, regular dialogue to make a change. It’s crucial to approach sensitive topics in a way that is not hostile but that directs us to use our minds in a radically different way.
A lack of diversity in the workplace is a self-imposed roadblock to innovation. Leaders who do not embrace DEI policies do a disservice to their enterprise by not allowing it to flourish with new strategies, fresh ideas and eclectic talent. We must focus on nurturing relationships in all processes to ensure that people of color, women, minorities and everyone has equitable opportunities. These elements should be as foundational to business as sales, strategy and everyday operations.
Leading Societal Change Into The Future
If leaders work to foster change through the hiring of diversity officers, implementation of DEI tools, the creation and adoption of programs that benefit communities, and encouraging honest dialogue regarding social issues, it could propel us toward the betterment of our ideas, economy and future progress. With genuine efforts and initiatives dedicated to diversity, we can be part of the solution for a more inclusive tomorrow for our workforce and world.
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