Standards set on diversity at UK Construction Week

After facing criticism over the use of scantily-clad promotion girls on an exhibitor stall last year, UK Construction Week (UKCW) has released a new guide for its 600+ exhibitors to promote greater equality, diversity and inclusion in its marketing at the show.

It is thought to be the first time that any major trade show has set standards on diversity, including the use of promotional staff on exhibition stands.

Its new guide has been created with the help of a new steering committee, made up of representatives from all parts of the industry who attend the show, including Balfour Beatty’s senior planner and LGBT Network co-chair, the Group HR and diversity manager at Willmott Dixon, and diversity and inclusion director at RICS.

Nathan Garnett, director of UK Construction Week, said: “We want the show to be lively, fun and engaging, and these measures should not be interpreted as restrictions upon that. Promoting a more diverse and inclusive image of construction is a joyful thing.

“But the fear of getting it wrong is holding the construction industry back from a frank conversation about diversity, equality and inclusion.

“We got it wrong last year, and faced criticism on social media. So, we’re still learning too. We have benefitted enormously from the input of many diversity champions and leaders within the construction industry over the last couple of years, and have published the videos from our Diversity in Construction panel discussions so that others can hear their advice as well.

“No-one can deny that the construction sector has more work to do in this area than most. The business case is clear, the moral case undeniable, so now is the time. It is for this reason UK Construction Week has made a commitment to change and to promote the benefits of diversity for the advantage of the whole construction sector.

“We have always promoted a very strong and diverse conference platform, but now we’re looking at the exhibition too. I think UK Construction Week can play a pivotal role in highlighting those who are making great strides in balancing out inequality in our industry, to demonstrate best practice and to inspire others. We should use this event as a celebration and an opportunity to challenge ourselves to make that commitment to achieving minimum requirements and demonstrating on-going progression.”

Aaron Reid, head of sustainable procurement at Balfour Beatty, added: “The work that we are undertaking alongside UK Construction Week represents a vital shift change in accelerating cultural transformation in the industry and addressing the skills shortage which will affect all major infrastructure and construction projects over the coming years.

“It is essential that the industry joins together to ensure that a career is construction is considered an attractive option, and that we grow to become representative of the communities in which we operate.”

The new guide from UKCW sets out an exhibitor code of conduct, including on stand design and themes, and the staffing of stands. Exhibitors are encouraged to “Consider the mix of staff you have on the stand (gender, age, ethnicity etc). Do they represent the diversity of your company, and if not, be prepared to explain why not?”

Standards also cover issues such as clothing worn by promotional staff and the activities on stands.

It also warns that if an exhibitor’s stand theme is deemed inappropriate or non-compliant with the UKCW equality, diversity and inclusion policy, they may not be permitted to open their stand at the event.