Earlier this year I came across an Association for Project Management (APM) survey that stated only 4% of Project Professionals identify as Black, African, Caribbean, or Black British.
What’s even more worrying is that 38% of Black Project Professionals feel that their ethnicity has had the most negative impact on their career development.
It struck a chord.
On 27 October 2022, with the full support of APM, we directly addressed these two, interrelated issues.
In a first-of-its-kind event, as part of Black History Month, we held a panel discussion to talk about these survey findings at Turner & Townsend’s London Office.
We were joined by 80+ in-person guests, including notable figures from the world of construction and infrastructure, financial services, management consulting, local government, and the project profession. Our distinguished panellists included Lawrence Heming (Morgan Stanley), Loraine Martins OBE FRSA (The Nichols Group), Rebecca Scott (Jacobs), Mac Along (The Equal Group), James Hampson (Jacobs), Cllr Yetunde Adeshile (Basildon Council), Professor Adam Boddison (APM), and Joanne Conway (EY).
We heard from our cross-industry panellists as we delved into two key themes: ‘Exploring the impact of underrepresentation’ and ‘Accelerating Black inclusion’. Some of the main insights unravelled during the evening were:
- Redefining mentorship and sponsorship to advance diversity and inclusion – the power of tapping into your Employee Resource Group(s) and Peer-to-Peer Networks, and how it enriches your personal and professional development. These mentors/sponsors may not necessarily identify as Black, but might have similar lived experiences
- Building communities that encourage transparency and connection – creating safe spaces for difficult conversations in organisations promotes a culture of belonging and respect, in which all gravitate down towards their full and natural selves.
- Data-centric approaches drive transparency and action – all important, yes, but often not executed properly; a missed opportunity as qualitative data can reveal the nuances of experiences and systemic issues that quantitative analysis alone cannot.
- Quotas may not be the most effective way of driving inclusion – boardroom diversity and inclusion targets are almost always achieved...but fail at the project leadership/senior executive level.
- Life skills the youth can learn through project management (PM) – entering the PM world from an early age can set the next generation(s) up for life, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, equipping them with communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication skills.
- The power of small wins is often underestimated – truth is, we can all make a difference, no matter how small or insignificant your effort may seem. For instance, offering a student a few days or even a week in a corporate building can inspire them for life.
- Inadequate data collection renders minority ethnic groups invisible – we need to be careful using catch-all terms like ‘BAME’ and disaggregate the data to find out the experiences and barriers at the individual-level (or as close as possible).
Huge thanks to our panellists for their openness and transparency, our guests for contributing to these meaningful discussions, our hosts, Turner & Townsend for their hospitality, and our colleagues at APM, Ellie and Natalie Keppler, for their incredible support.
This event wouldn’t have been possible without the dream team: Rebecca Scott, Chris Jackson, Samantha Daly, and Matt Tucker – thank you for your patience and support!
We know there is more work to be done, but this is a great first step as we continue to inspire, amplify, and elevate Black talent in the project profession. Photo credits: Luke Agbaimoni
Feedback from delegates:
- Knowledgable and informative, really engaging.
- Brilliant as always and was really engaging.
- A brilliant host who was engaging but focused discussion at the correct points.
London Branch committee member