APM tackles diversity head on

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Posted by Kirsten on 8th Dec 2016

APM’s first-ever diversity event, entitled an LGBTi Networking Evening, took place at PWC, Hays Galleria, London on 29 November 2016, writes Adrian Pyne.

The event’s array of speakers looked at the professional, ethical and commercial value of engaging with all levels of diversity that naturally exist within every organisation.

That includes the unique contributions that LGBTi - lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex - and all other diverse sections of society, make to an organisation’s overall culture and, ultimately, success.

Opening speaker APM Deputy Chair Steve Wake quoted long running studies which show that inclusive organisations can benefit to a two percent increase in profitability – almost doubling construction industry profitability.

He said: “Encouraging young professionals is a key APM aim. And our profession cannot afford to turn away graduates and apprentices from certain sectors who they feel they would not be comfortable, or may even be discriminated against.”

On a broader note, speaker Martin Lunnon looked beyond the LGBTi community to the rights of the individual. Martin’s thought provoking story illustrated that Amnesty campaigns not so much for individual rights, but rather for the right of the individual not to be abused, whether through political position, or as a result of being part of a minority group. Martin also gave some guidance for our profession in avoiding human rights issues and any legal penalties that might result.

Tackling diversity in the project profession

Speaker Martyn Loukes from TfL, classed as one of the Top 50 Global Diversity Professionals in Industry, gave the example of OUTbound, TfL’s diversity network, which he has led since 2012. OUTbound started in 2004 although by 2012 required fresh impetus showing  the need to gain and sustain the energy of change.

Since then, Martyn and his team have actively, and successfully, sought to engage TfL people from beyond HQ into every area of the organisation. He hopes to bring those ideas to APM, and help promote an ‘open’ culture within the wider project management community.

Michael Cooch from our hosts PWC also showed what can be achieved – and gained – in an organisation, by promoting its long-established diversity network - GLEE - which stands for Gay, Lesbian and Everybody Else. PWC are serious about encouraging diversity, ensuring it forms part of leadership in order to sustain a supportive culture.

When it came to project professionals and women in project management, Teri Okoro’s story highlighted the ongoing work of the Women in Project Management (WiPM) SIG. She also outlined how the Construction Industry Council is working to change hearts and minds in respect of diversity. Teri introduced her model for encouraging Diverse Talent Growth and Development.

Also speaking from APM’s WiPM SIG, Danna Walker’s story drew on her own life and career and the challenges she has faced as a woman in the construction industry. Picking up on a point by Steve Wake, Danna echoed the need for young LGBTi people to feel comfortable taking jobs in construction. She made the point that project professionals are leaders, and should, as such, encourage the growth of cultures supportive of diversity.

Carillion is another company with progressive leadership that believes in the value of the diversity network. A large company with some 40, 000 employees in construction and services, Carillion has just started on its own ‘GLEE journey’, according to Sharon Slinger. Its network’s Steering Group is energetic in promoting its aims and sought to learn from other organisations. Sharon also said that the use of social media, e.g. Yammer, provides excellent two-way communication channels.

Out of diversity, comes change

Kris Phelps from Stonewall, a non-profit organisation founded in 1989 by a small group of people who had been active in the struggle against Section 28 of the Local Government Act, related his own very personal story of being a young gay man in a challenging environment.  Stonewall, whose main role is campaigning and lobbying, now has hundreds of partner organisations in the UK through its Diversity Champion network. This programme, which promotes the belief that people perform better when they can be themselves, aims to ensure all LGBTi employees are accepted without exception in the workplace. Kris related that MI5, for example, which once summarily dismissed anyone it found to be gay, is now a top LGBTi employer, for sound practical, as well as ethical, reasons.

Where to next for APM?

The overall enthusiasm and interest in the initial APM Diversity launch was encouraging and the energy of the evening needs to be harnessed and channelled into practical change. Said Chair for the evening, Adrian Pyne, “what started as a conversation between myself and board member Brian Wernham a few months ago resulted in an evening with great energy from both speakers and the crowd. Where to next?  Possibly a partnership with Stonewall going forward? Well there certainly is a GLEEfull groundswell for more!”

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