Resisting the Tyranny of Low Expectations

Mark Harrison

Mark Harrison

Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Transformation

Last updated: 13th May 2022

It’s just over 12 months since I started at CIOB as Head of EDI Transformation -- and what an eventful and productive year it has been, despite the limitations of the pandemic.

Firstly, I have been consistently impressed by the enthusiasm and expertise of CIOB colleagues, our membership and partners across the built environment sector, helping to promote diversity and inclusion. History shows us that it’s the effort of many people working together that makes meaningful change happen, and I am happy to report that productive teamwork has been much in evidence contributing to progress on the journey to a truly welcoming and inclusive sector. 

Internally, we adopted our first diversity and inclusion action plan covering all aspects of our operation from governance to finance to HR and beyond. And regular meetings of our renewed CIOB Members’ EDI Advisory Panel have been our ‘critical friends’, ensuring that we are really ‘walking the walk’ on this critical agenda.

November 2021 saw the launch of our Special Report and Charter for Diversity & Inclusion, a first for the CIOB. The Special Report provides excellent examples of best practice from around the globe aligned to each of the Charter’s five key commitments, helping employers to make progress on this critical agenda. In addition to this guidance, we have established our new Employers’ Forum on Diversity and Inclusion, providing an excellent opportunity to share challenges and successes. I’m very pleased to report that we currently have around 40 employers signed-up to the Charter – a number that is increasing each week (and if your employer would like to sign-up, it’s free to do so and can be done online at the above link).

Another exciting development has resulted from working in partnership with our sister professional membership organisations in the sector. During discussions with colleagues at RICS, ICE, RIBA, RTPI & LI, (representing over 350,000 professionals in the built environment sector), we recognised that a consistent approach to issues such as data collection and fixing the ‘leaking pipeline’ of diverse students into employment would give us greater effectiveness in promoting change to the benefit of all our members and people who live in and use the environments we create. In April 2022 our CEOs jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding, setting out our commitment to working together on this agenda and making the necessary changes; this is a historic ‘first’ in the sector. 

And there is much more to come this year, including our very first EDI Awards that will be part of our ever-popular CIOB Awards (formerly CMYA) that takes place each September, to celebrate and recognise individual and corporate ‘agents of change’. Don’t miss the chance to nominate your champions of fairness and accessibility! 

We are also looking forward to our very first EDI conference on 15 November later this year. This will be an international, online event with a focus on the most efficient and effective ways to make the necessary change happen in our industry. Watch this space for further details of the challenging speakers and stimulating discussions!

To conclude, we know that there’s a long way to go and this is just the start! 

With the energy and ambition from across the industry we will continue to work to ensure that the built environment sector is truly welcoming to all.

We need to resist the tyranny of low expectations. We need to open our eyes to the inequality that remains. We won’t unlock the full potential of the workplace until we see how far from equality we really are.

Sheryl Sandberg