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Building Diversity Awards organizers making event engaging, interactive

Angela Gismondi
Building Diversity Awards organizers making event engaging, interactive

The inaugural Building Diversity Awards (BDA) gala will recognize diversity and inclusion champions in the construction industry and while it will be held virtually this year, organizers are making it as interactive as possible to engage participants.

“People want to connect and network with others,” said Rosemarie Powell, executive director of the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN). “We’re really wanting to replicate as best as we can that live feeling for the event.”

Hosted by the TCBN, in partnership with community, labour and construction industry partners, the awards, which will be held May 13, will recognize contractors, unions and client/owners who have advanced the participation of Black, Indigenous, people of colour and other under-represented groups such as women, youth and newcomers in the construction sector.

“It will be an inspiring and fun event with lots of opportunities to network and engage with new friends and colleagues from within the industry,” said Powell. “It’s about demonstrating leadership within the construction industry and the wealth of local talent that we have here in Toronto and Ontario in our diverse communities that can contribute tremendously to the construction industry.”

Award recipients will be recognized for one or more steps they are taking that correspond to the Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks (standards for organizations around the world), as adapted by BuildForce Canada, indicates a release.

Awards will be presented in five categories including three Leading On Diversity Awards for owner/client, contractor, and union, the Community Benefit Champion Award and the NexGen Builders Champion Award.

The gala will feature a variety of speakers, performers, prizes and surprises, said Powell. C. David Moody, owner of C. D. Moody Construction Company, Inc., one of the largest African American-owned construction companies in America, will be the keynote speaker.

“He had a real challenge getting into the industry but was able to overcome that and now has a successful business,” said Powell. “He will speak to the challenges he experienced early in his career, both personally and professionally, and what inspired him, what he has been able to accomplish and how others can learn from his experience.”

Other speakers will include Geoff Smith, CEO of EllisDon, and Dahabo Ahmed-Omer, executive director of the Black North initiative.

In addition, the awards gala will feature some performances from local talent, including Quincy Bullen, King, Nataga Shachu and rising spoken word star Hannah Flores.

The host for the event is Ismaila Alfa, the host of Metro Morning on CBC radio. It’s open to contractors, unions, government, educators and those who are seeking opportunities in the industry. Tickets are being sold and proceeds will go to the NexGen mentoring program.

TCBN partners will be purchasing tables and there will be complimentary tickets available for those who need them. They also have volunteer opportunities for table facilitators for virtual networking tables on the day of the event.

“We encourage people to go to the tables, meet each other, learn about the industry,” said Powell.

The Building Diversity Awards and Recognition Program was one initiative that came out of the Building Diversity Leadership Table which was established about two-and-a-half years ago. It was led by John Cartwright, who was co-founder of the TCBN and president of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council.

“It included different industry and community leaders coming together and saying we need to do something in addition to what we do for community benefits,” explained Powell. “When they (companies and individuals) do demonstrate that leadership we want to recognize them so they see that there is a win-win all around for doing this.”

She hopes the awards raise awareness of the importance of inclusivity and diversity in the industry.

“When we get to know each other, work together, build relationships with each other it helps to break down the barriers,” said Powell.

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