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Built Environment Leaders: Social Equity and Diversity Starts at the Top

More than 40 business leaders recently met with the National Institute of Building Sciences to share best practices and discuss industry challenges

(WASHINGTON, DC, December 4, 2020) – Leveling the playing field of social equity and diversity will require a collaborative effort within the building industry.

This week, more than 40 c-suite association leaders participated in high-level discussions, during a roundtable to Improve the Workforce of the Built Environment through Social Equity hosted by the National Institute of Building Sciences. This virtual meeting was designed to share best practices, data, and strategies for improving social equity in leadership positions within the industry.

"Individuals often grow in their career based on leadership opportunities, honors, awards, and certifications achieved through our associations," says Lakisha A. Woods, CAE, President & CEO of NIBS. "We must focus on equity in leadership roles within our industry."

Woods referenced race and gender data on board seats held at Fortune 500 companies in 2018. Sixty-six percent of seats were occupied by white men, and 18 percent of board seats were held by white women. Just 12 percent and 4 percent of seats were held by men and women of color, respectively.

"If the Fortune 500 companies have such a challenge with diversity – we have some work to do,” she said. “The building industry has far greater diversity challenges."

John Martinez, President of the Regional Hispanic Contractors Association, said construction has been wonderful for the Hispanic labor force. But there still are issues, namely the ability to move up into leadership positions.

"In 20 years, Hispanic laborers will still be laborers," he said. "Diversity without equity is not inclusion."

To address social equity, diversity and inclusion, executives shared what their organizations have done to meet today’s challenges. They include:

Paula Glover, President and CEO for the American Association of Blacks in Energy, said the industry gets it wrong when "we start to diversify an organization without thinking about the organization you’re bringing people into."

"[We need to] start with equity, move through inclusion and then go to diversity," she said.

About NIBS

National Institute of Building Sciences brings together labor and consumer interests, government representatives, regulatory agencies, and members of the building industry to identify and resolve problems and potential problems around the construction of housing and commercial buildings. NIBS is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization. It was established by Congress in 1974. For more information, visit or follow @bldgsciences on Twitter and Facebook.

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