‘Diversity brings creativity, innovation and profitability’

In January this year, Mark Harrison started his new role as head of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) transformation at the CIOB – a first for the organisation. He tells Neil Gerrard how adopting inclusive practices and promoting diversity will benefit CIOB membership and the construction industry

What is involved in the role of head of EDI transformation?

Created by Caroline Gumble [CIOB chief executive], the role is a new one for the CIOB and its remit is across all functions of the institute.

I will be reporting directly to the CEO in order to demonstrate commitment to EDI at the highest level. The role will involve considering who our members are, the services and education we provide and how we provide those services to ensure they meet the needs and aspirations of our diverse membership.

We will also be looking at how we recruit a more diverse membership to better reflect wider society. I will also be thinking about how we can promote EDI in our role as an employer and working with CIOB colleagues to embed inclusive practices in our events, communications and across our global operations.

Where do you plan to start?

My induction is well underway and I am meeting a range of stakeholders in the sector – CIOB members involved in our hubs, our expert EDI panel, trustees, the leadership team and colleagues. I have also started networking with EDI practitioners in sister institutions so that we can share learning and have a cohesive approach to promoting change.

Mark Harrison, head of equality, diversity and inclusion transformation at the CIOB

“There is clearly an appetite for positive change at the CIOB and within the sector”

Mark Harrison, CIOB

There is clearly a huge appetite for positive change at the CIOB and within the sector. Gender equality is a key focus of this energy for change, but it goes beyond that to ensuring fairness in respect of other characteristics such as race and disability.

Will it be movements like MeToo and Black Lives Matter or practical considerations like skills shortages that drive change in construction?

Both! One of the many positive things that came out of the MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter protests is an impatience for change. But I also think there is a growing recognition in construction that diversity at senior levels brings more creativity, innovation and profitability. The skills shortage means that being an employer of choice for all communities and individuals is critical.  

Does being a white male present a challenge in undertaking this role?

I’ve heard that question before, and more people probably wonder without actually asking it! Firstly, I would emphasise that the EDI agenda is not limited to considerations of gender and race. We must also consider the barriers faced by those with other characteristics such as disability, faith and sexual orientation and, of course, the intersections of those characteristics.

Mark Harrison CV

2008-2013 Diversity strategy manager, Metropolitan Housing Partnership
2013-2015 Diversity and inclusion manager, The Children’s Society
2015-2017 Diversity and inclusion manager, SOAS
2017-2020 Head of inclusion, University of London
October 2020-January 2021 EDI consultant, The Alan Turing Institute
January 2021-present Head of EDI transformation, Chartered Institute of Building

I would also respectfully suggest that it is neither ethical nor practical to pass the burden of promoting equity to those who already face discrimination. I see it as my responsibility to use the advantage I have had to contribute to much-needed change.

Having a male EDI lead reporting to a female CEO at the CIOB could be the right formula, given the current gender imbalance in the sector.

What are the next steps?

During 2021 we will be developing and launching a comprehensive EDI strategy that will set out how we will make progress on EDI over the next three years. I would encourage all members to contribute to the consultation exercise that will be hosted on the CIOB Members’ Portal.

Fair and equitable access to opportunities and inclusive practices will contribute to a stronger economy, across and beyond the construction industry.

Story for CM? Get in touch via email: [email protected]

Latest articles in News