Diversity in Positions of Influence

Diversity in Positions of Influence Webinar - 27th October 2020

Diversity in Positions of Influence

Diversity of viewpoints—across attributes such as ethnicity, gender, age and educational background, breeds innovation. Organizations have become more active in their efforts to hire and work with a broader societal group of people. Having a diverse workforce is a prerequisite to creating products, services, and business practices that can set a company apart and generate competitive advantage. At the global scale, diversity and inclusion allows organizations to adapt in an agile manner to the unique needs of different demographic groups, markets and cultures.

Since the construction sector is responsible for creating and upgrading the physical assets that support families and livelihoods to thrive, it is critical that wider experiences and opinions are included in the delivery of its workforce at all levels. Some organizations have adjusted their recruitment and talent development strategies to address this and an increasing number of top performing building and built environment organizations fit the profile of McKinsey’s top-quartile companies for gender diversity on executive teams. Unfortunately, a disproportionately large number are in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnic or cultural diversity. According to the National Association for Women in Construction, women make up about 9.1% of the construction industry in the US. It has also been observed that although half the working population in the U.K. is female, women still make up just 13% of the construction sector’s workforce.

Our “Diversity in Positions of Influence” Initiative is directed at addressing this at the systems level through creating a movement of action by building on the great ideas implemented by trail-blazing organizations. We recognize that it requires us all to do more together and seek to catalyze transformations across our respective networks. We will do this by identifying tangible actions that more individuals and organizations can adopt to accelerate the translation of what is working into system-wide intervention programs. This webinar took place on the 27th October 2020, and brought together speakers from the US, UK, and Kenya, to discuss the challenges and opportunities related to inclusion and diversity in the built environment.


Meet Our Speakers

Maimunah Mohd Sharif,
Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme

Robert Crane, Associate Vice Provost for Global Programs, Penn State University

Maria Coulter BEM, Managing Director, Construction Coach

Dr Amy Freeman, Director of the Penn State Millennium Scholars Program

Dr Esther Obonyo, Director of the Global Building Network.

Dr Deborah Pullen MBE, Executive Director of BRE Trust

Diversity in Positions of Influence – Ongoing Initiatives

Following from the discussions on the 27th October, BRE Trust and Penn State want to collate information on ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives in the built environment. If you are aware of any ongoing programmes related to diversity and inclusion in construction and development that you would like to be featured here, please contact us with more information – and to get involved and stay a part of the conversation, join our Diversity in Positions of Influence LinkedIn Group.


Join the Group


Initiatives discussed by the panelists at the Diversity in Positions of Influence Webinar that took place on 27th October can be viewed at the links below.

UN-Habitat Urban Policy Platform Ms Maimunah Mohd Sharif – Executive Director of UN Human Settlements Programme


Ms Angela Mwai – Leader, Gender Equality Unit, UN-Habitat

Construction Industry Council Roadmap for Change


Construction Coach

Ms Maria Coulter – Managing Director of Construction Coach

NED, Construction Industry Council (CIC)

Chair, CIC Diversity & Inclusion Panel

Millennium Scholars Programme


Dr Amy Freeman – Director of the Millennium Scholars Programme

We were also made aware of several other ongoing diversity and inclusion projects through the course of the webinar discussions. You can find out more about those here:

  • Diversity Wins is the latest report from McKinsey on the business case for inclusivity and diversity in companies.
  • The Geneva UN Charter on Sustainable Housing aims to improve sustainability of housing in the ECE region through effective policies and actions at all levels, supported by international cooperation, in order to contribute to sustainable development in the region.
  • Inclusion by Design is a report produced by CABE examining how inclusivity and accessibility can be incorporated into the built environment from the initial design stages.
  • The Supporting Diversity Handbook was developed by the City of London to support  “an environment which gives people more opportunities to mix”, in order to improve social cohesion in London.
  • Telling the stories of those that came first: the idea of role models for young marginalised groups is key to encouraging people to enter into new fields of STEM. Stories like those of Paul Revere Williams  are key to showing what is possible.
  • Examples of organisations dedicated to increasing the visibility of diverse groups in architecture and engineering in the UK include Black Females in Architecture and the Stephen Lawrence Trust.
  • Institute of Physics LimitLess Campaign – LimitLess was launched in 2020 to support young people to change the world and fulfil their potential by doing physics.

The selected projects here have been highlighted to us by our partners and participants of the webinar, and are by no means exhaustive. BRE Trust is not directly involved in these projects, but are signposting here as they are of relevance to our ongoing discussions into diversity in the built environment. If you would like to highlight a project you are aware of or involved with, please contact us to add to the list.