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Roundtable Opening Address
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Jan 10, 2024

G&T Roundtable: Race and Ethnicity in the Built Environment

Written by Editor
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Roundtable Opening Address

G&T has been involved in the industry discussion around diversity and inclusion for some time, and sponsored and contributed to the London Property Alliance’s Diversity and Inclusion series.

Expanding on that work, in October 2023 G&T launched a series of roundtables to discuss and debate key issues affecting the firm and the industry. Our first roundtable related to diversity and inclusion, specifically around race and ethnicity. While acknowledging there is a wider spectrum of diversity that goes beyond race and ethnicity, we felt this was an important topic to explore.

According to the Construction Industry Council, the latest statistics show 13.8% of the UK population is from a minority ethnic background, and in London that statistic rises to 40%, yet just 5.4% of construction workers are from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Through its involvement with initiatives such as the London Property Alliance’s Diversity and Inclusion series and the City of London’s Skills for a Sustainable Skyline Taskforce, G&T is working to ensure there are no blocks to achieving greater diversity in the industry and within its own workforce, ensuring opportunities, training and support are given to talented people no matter their background or circumstances.

G&T hosted a roundtable to discuss race and ethnicity in the built environment to explore the barriers and opportunities for improving on these industry statistics. Working with a cross-section of colleagues and industry professionals including Managing Partner, Adam Glover, and members of the firm’s ESG committee, eight working groups discussed three key questions inspired by the London Property Alliance’s Diversity and Inclusion Guidebook on Race:

  1. What are the benefits of diverse teams and inclusive leadership?
  2. What are the key challenges to achieving racial equality in construction and property?
  3. What are the opportunities for improvement and recommended positive actions?

All participants on the night agreed that diverse and inclusive teams and businesses yield better outcomes and achieve greater financial success, and that’s backed up by the research (How diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) matter | McKinsey). It was also acknowledged that everyone benefits from diverse teams not just those from ethnic or racially diverse backgrounds.

Some of the key takeaways from the roundtable were:

  1. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is a journey and it’s about taking the right steps in order – there are no quick fixes.
  2. However, progress has been very slow in the industry, as the statistics demonstrate, and we should challenge ourselves to act with greater urgency.
  3. Being a diverse business avoids ‘group think’, while diverse thinking enables businesses to foresee problems and find better solutions.
  4. Lack of diversity in senior leadership roles is an issue that needs to be addressed but it can’t be quickly solved. However, we should find ways to get minority voices heard at leadership level which will help to understand what might be hindering progress.
  5. Role models are incredibly important to getting young people into the industry and giving junior employees the ambition to make it into senior roles.
  6. Diverse talent is important but the focus must remain on the ‘talent’ part of the equation or we’re setting ourselves and others up to fail.
  7. We shouldn’t be afraid of asking for feedback or making mistakes.
  8. We should judge ourselves on outcomes not just actions.
  9. Ownership of EDI at leadership level is crucial to making progress.

G&T’s ESG committee together with Managing Partner, Adam Glover, are now considering all the outputs from the roundtable to understand how they can inform the firm’s policies and practices in the future, as well as ways in which we can positively impact the industry as a whole. 

Read a transcript of the full opening address from G&T's Yuebi Yang here. 

We extend our thanks to Arvinder Birdi, Yuebi Yang, April Shackley, Evie Treanor, Habibul Islam, Khalid Meah, Nancy Elgarf-Weir, Priya Majeethia, and all other colleagues and guests for their valuable contributions.

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