Diversity, inclusion and equity are critical issues in the architecture/engineering/consulting (A/E/C) industry. Integrating these concepts into pursuits and projects can enhance firm culture and reflect a company’s values—helping others get a seat at the table is the right thing to do! According to the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), it is increasingly important for engineering firms to look beyond their short-term financial gain when developing and implementing business practices. More and more, industry clients, shareholders, employees and recruits are concerned with social issues and expect A/E/C firms to do their part to improve the society we share.
At GeoEngineers, these values are more than just a business strategy. Our focus on people and collaboration are pillars of our strategic plan and are part of what makes us a unique firm. We remain committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity in subcontracting as well as recruiting, hiring, training, retaining and promoting.
People may have different definitions of diversity, inclusion, and equity but it’s important to understand that each means something different. Equity is often used interchangeably with equality, but the two terms are quite different. Equality simply means equal, but equity requires fairness. The reality is that none of us are exactly the same, we all have differences that bring advantages or disadvantages in the context of our society and individual circumstances. An equitable system will strive for fairness in opportunities or outcomes—even when our advantages may not be equal.
It may help to think of diversity as a “mix” of employees with unique perspectives based on varied personal and professional backgrounds. Inclusion is the deliberate act of welcoming this diversity and actively encouraging the “mix” of people succeed. We have all heard the term “melting pot” used to refer to diverse groups or regions; but it is a poor analogy. The goal is not a melting pot of uniformity; the goal is a vibrant salad! In a salad, each ingredient adds unique flavor and value to the dish, just as each person’s differences adds value to a team.
It takes more than just good intentions. Unexamined biases can prevent a firm from living up to their goals for inclusion. To reach these goals, each of us must become aware of and carefully consider our own implicit biases and then take steps to mitigate them. Without even realizing it, our unconscious biases can influence our decisions to team with a certain firm or hire a specific individual. Consulting firms can address these tendencies in two broad ways: by establishing company policies that set specific goals, and by asking staff to individually work to identify and combat personal biases.
By hiring disadvantaged businesses, mentoring smaller firms and seeking out diversity in our employees, GeoEngineers is working to make our teams more competitive, collaborative and effective. Through our Inclusive Contracting Program we are actively working to expand our connections with diverse firms to help serve our clients. We hope to foster equity by both offering mentorship opportunities and seeking mentorship from firms with successful inclusive programs, and we continually promote a message of inclusivity and diversity to our internal teams. We seek to promote diversity, inclusion and equity in our contracting and hiring processes and are always looking for partners to make it successful.