A new awards program is meant to “create the enabling conditions for the industry to really embrace equity, diversity and inclusion,” says Rosemarie Powell, executive director of the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN).
Along with community, labour and construction industry partners, the TCBN is introducing the first annual Building Diversity Awards to recognize contractors, unions, client/owners and industry champions.
“We want to recognize and award those contractors and unions and industry leaders who have been doing it right and showcase them and their processes as an example for others to see,” she explained. “We’re launching it this year and we are expecting that it will be an annual award.”
The awards recognize contractors and unions who are associated with major infrastructure and urban development projects who are taking extraordinary steps to increase participation of Black, Indigenous and racialized workers, including youth, women and newcomers within their organizations, said Powell.
Awards include Community Benefits Champion, the NexGen Builders Champion Award, Leading on Diversity Award — owner/client, Leading on Diversity Award — Contractor and Leading on Diversity Award — Union.
“We’re seeing some gain from the current community benefits programs that are in place. We are seeing more and more real attention being paid by the industry to the challenge of recruiting more diversity into the industry. We wanted to make sure that is recognized and celebrated,” Powell said.
The awards have been in the works for about a year and were supposed to be handed out in person at a gala this November but were postponed to May due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They are hoping the event in May will be a mixed in-person and online event.
“It will be a really high-profile event that is supported and celebrated by the industry. We have a lot of partners who were at the table with us in developing the concept. It really came out of our equity and diversity working group, which is made up of industry leaders.”
EllisDon is the first lead sponsor and partner for the provincewide awards program. There have been a series of racist acts on EllisDon construction sites over the last few months and the company has been undertaking a number of initiatives to eradicate racism.
“Because of some of the incidents that have happened this year, senior leadership at EllisDon took it as one of their goals to make sure that we are trying to address inclusivity and diversity, not just within the company but within the industry too,” said Richard Whyte, chief estimator, Toronto Civil Division with EllisDon.
“One of our initiatives was to partner with community programs like Toronto Community Benefits Network and others to push that. When the opportunity came up for these awards, I thought it was a no brainer. I took it right to our president and CEO Geoff Smith and he agreed specifically from a standpoint of how we at EllisDon can do our part to make a change.”
Inclusivity and diversity should be just as much as a priority as safety for all companies, said Whyte, adding racialized people in the industry need to be supported.
“This notion that certain kinds of people shouldn’t be around in the construction sector is frankly disgusting,” said Whyte.
“I really hope that other construction companies take note and really start being a lot more visible on this initiative to stamp out racism. Racialized people in the industry are seeing what is happening and it’s affecting them in a very negative way. We need to make this a real priority.”
Awards recipients will be selected by a committee, which is made up of diversity experts from construction but also from other industries and jurisdictions.
Nominations will be evaluated using the Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks as adapted by BuildForce Canada for the construction industry, said Powell, adding organizations that submit a nomination will be able to measure their progress in building diversity against an industry standard.
A free online information session explaining the nomination process will be held every Wednesday in November at noon.
The nomination period will start Nov. 16 and award winners will be announced at the celebration event taking place on May 13, 2021.
For more information visit www.buildingdiversity.ca.
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