FIR: What is ‘fairness, inclusion and respect’, and why have all the words changed again?
We know, we know… you had just gotten your head around “equality” when you were told to talk about “diversity”. Then as soon as you’d introduced this terminology into your vocabulary you were instructed to start saying “inclusion”. So why, oh why, are we now advising that you talk about “fairness, inclusion and respect”
Well there are a number of reasons, and ‘cos we quite like you, we thought we might list them out: –
1. You see the problem is, when we talk about ‘equality’ it can often seem like we are talking about someone else. It takes a brave individual to stand up and say “yes my experience is different, and some support would be rather useful, thank you very much”. Even as a woman working in construction as a Site Manager I did not think ‘equality’ was about me; and not in a self-deprecating way either. I felt that if I couldn’t do it on my own, I shouldn’t do it. Clearly I see things differently now, but it raises the question – in construction, how many people really identify with ‘equality’ in a positive way? I know there are many that do, but isn’t it a lot easier for us all to identify with the term ’fairness’? Or ‘inclusion’? Or ‘respect’?
2. It’s about US not THEM – respect in the workplace needs to be about keeping the best people in it. If someone is being treated badly we shouldn’t allow it – it’s not funny if only one person is laughing. By making this about ‘them’ we are saying these people can handle abuse; by making it about ‘us’ we are saying no one should have to put up with it.
3. It’s a little bit more than race and gender. Now do not get me wrong – research has shown that women and minority groups are likely to have a different and, unfortunately, more negative experience of the industry than the typical ‘white male’. But that doesn’t mean that currently the average white male in the sector is having it easy either. With long hours, false self-employment and adverse working environments quite often being the norm in the sector there’s a bit of work we need to do before we can focus on people that reflect a protected characteristic – otherwise we will just see more and more people leave.
4. Fairness is something we can all get behind and work towards. If you don’t want to work in a fair environment, where the best are allowed to succeed on merit alone – then, quite frankly, I would question your motivation and ability in general.
5. It’s where the sector is heading: the group sitting above the industry is the FIR Strategic Group; the CITB has just piloted the Be Fair Framework; and clients are starting to use this terminology in their tender list – so we need to look ahead at where the industry is going – not where it’s been.
I believe the sector can become a leading industry that the best talent strives to become part of. For too long we have rested on the variety and brilliance of the work we do, but this is no longer enough. Now we need to focus on providing better working conditions to attract and retain the talent of tomorrow, because if we don’t, even modular building and BIM won’t be enough to save us.