Trade show sets diversity standards

UK Construction Week (UKCW) has released a new guide for its 600+ exhibitors to promote greater equality, diversity and inclusion in their 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.

Work on discussing diversity standards at UKCW and in construction marketing generally was started by the show organisers, Media 10, more than two years ago. 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.”

Aaron Reid, head of sustainable procurement at Balfour Beatty, said this represents a shift change in accelerating cultural transformation in the industry and addressing the current skills shortage.

“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,” he said.

The new guide from UKCW sets out an exhibitor code of conduct, including on stand design and themes, and the staffing of stands.

“Consider the mix of staff you have on the stand (gender, age, ethnicity etc),” it says. “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.