HPAC Magazine

Pursuing DEI: virtual event shares paths towards building better culture

May 1, 2024 | By HPAC Magazine

The virtual event explored the cultural shift taking place in the construction trades and the benefits of those companies who embrace change.

Pursuing DEI, a virtual event held Wednesday, April 24, delivered on its promise to generate discussion and demonstrate the benefits of fostering diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces across all sectors of the construction industry.

All sessions from the three-hour event are now available on demand and are loaded with educational and practical advice to develop welcoming and productive teams.

The keynote speaker, Rubiena Duarte, vice president, global diversity and inclusion, Procore Technologies, led off the day with a presentation entitled “Navigating unconscious bias”.

We all inherently carry bias in our minds based on our personal experiences, and when surrounded by other people we can all sense when people may be evaluating us based on their own personal traits.

Duarte clearly explains different types of bias and how we can recognize some of our own personal bias, and she shares how important it is for companies to encourage a positive work culture that is free of traditional bias and promotes inclusion. Developing this type of culture will be an important note of distinction for the next generation of workers.

The first panel discussion was entitled: Building and maintaining your culture of inclusion. Moderated by Kenny Leon, vice president of marketing innovation and industry collaboration at the Canadian Construction Association, panelists discussed the steps you can take to establish a culture of inclusivity, and provided tips on communicating (and enforcing) a positive company culture.

One of the panelists was Brandi Ferenc, RSE, founder, Fair-Trades Toolbox and a Red Seal 313A refrigeration mechanic/gas fitter 1 journeyperson. “I [as a woman] represent less than 0.4% of my industry, and that needle hasn’t moved in 20 years,” said Ferenc, and she believes in the power of affinity groups (like women-in groups) to help encourage and support others in the field, but more importantly she believes that under-represented people in the trades need allies among their co-workers, colleagues who will support, guide, defend and encourage their growth.

The next panel, moderated by Martin Luymes, vice president, government and stakeholder relations with the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI), was: Putting your culture of inclusive recruitment into practice.

Bill Ferreira of BuildForce Canada outlined how over the next 10 years the Canadian construction industry is going to need to hire about 350,000 new workers to replace the retiring workforce and keep up with a growing industry.

Kim Rutherford of EMCO offered a few recruiting tips to ensure a fair and inclusive experience. For example, share interview questions with candidates in advance (this makes it a much better experience for neurodiverse individuals, ie: ADHD, autism, dyspraxia, and dyslexia), also, ask candidates, “What can we do to make this the best experience for you?” in order to ensure your workplace will provide equitable experience for them.

The final panel for the day was: Leveraging your inclusive workplace and becoming an employer of choice.

Moderated by Michelle Branigan, CEO, Electricity Human Resources Canada (EHRC), this panel included Meg Mathes, RSE, senior manager, diversity equity & inclusion with Modern Niagara. Mathes encouraged people learn about intersectionality, taking time to understand the many sides of individuals.

The Pursuing DEI virtual event was produced by HPAC magazine along with sister publications Electrical Business and On-Site (all part of the Annex Business Media family).

Sponsors of the event included:

Platinum sponsor: Procore Technologies

Gold sponsor: Jacques Cartier + Champlain Bridges

Bronze sponsors: Electricity Human Resources Canada (EHRC), and EMCO Corp.




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