Welcome to the fourth instalment of the Spotlight on Diversity Champions blog series with Sharon Slinger, Owner and Director of Constructing Rainbows Limited. I am thrilled to have been able to sit down with Sharon Slinger and discuss the key issues facing diversity in the construction industry.
Sharon has a degree in Quantity Surveying which led her to over 15 years’ experience in the industry across multiple organisations. Sharon’s passion for greater equality is the reason why she is a key player in the sector’s diversity and inclusion space.
Sharon shares a bit about herself, insight into how the landscape has changed and shares her ideas on how YOU can push for greater equality.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have recently set up my own business, Constructing Rainbows Limited, which works with businesses to improve company performance and enhance profitability. I am a Chartered Quantity Surveyor and Diversity and Inclusion specialist.
What roles have you done in the industry?
Prior to launching my own business, I have predominantly worked for top-tier main contractors, both in the UK and in Australia, in commercial management roles.
"My passion for diversity and inclusion saw me launch Connect – The Carillion LGBT network, be an inaugural member of their Diversity Council and join an LGBT working group with other construction companies, #BuildingEquality."
I have recently joined the Construction Industry Council Diversity & Inclusion Panel, as I know collaboration between the professional institutions will have a much greater impact on the industry than working alone. I also co-founded a social enterprise, STEER Support & Mentoring CIC, which provides industry mentors for built environment undergraduates.
Best moment in your construction career?
To date, I would say launching the Carillion LGBT network, of which I became the global Co-Chair. The construction industry has a long way to go to becoming a fully inclusive industry, particularly with the LGBT community.
I am proud that I have used my strength to stand up for others, and that Connect has left a legacy of Diversity & Inclusion in the construction and facilities management industries.
What inspired you to enter the construction industry?
Not the most exciting of stories, but I was considering what to do at university and so filled in a careers questionnaire, and at the top, it came out as Quantity Surveying (something which I had never heard of).
I looked into it, did some work experience, and concluded that it used my love of numbers, and also enabled me to see tangible results of a new building on a skyline.
"There aren’t many careers where you can be driving along with friends and family, and use the words “I built that".
What motivates you on a day to day basis?
Throughout my career, my motivations have changed. I love the construction industry, it’s a fantastic industry to work in, with new challenges every day, and some amazing people that you’ll work within your career.
My motivation is making sure that everyone feels welcome to join and stay in the industry, no matter your gender, race, sexuality, faith, disability, social background etc. Ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed to their greatest ability.
How have you seen the construction landscape change in terms of gender diversity?
"Sadly, gender diversity hasn’t changed very much in the time I’ve been in the industry, we still have the same percentage ratio of around 9% that we had when I started."
However, I do feel the industry has changed a lot over the course of my career. There are now pockets of much better practice, with clients and companies working hard to ensure a more inclusive environment, but this is not yet universal throughout the industry.
We still need to tackle the subtle unconscious and conscious biases and give allies the power to stand up for underrepresented groups.
Many senior leaders are understanding the real tangible benefits of having a diverse workforce, and are putting strategies and resources in place to improve it. We still have a long way to go, but we have made some very positive changes.
What do you think needs to happen to push for greater equality for everyone, no matter their background?
The starting point is around awareness and understanding that this is a problem. There are many in the industry who just don’t see it as a problem that needs to be rectified.
"We need strong leaders (male and female) tackling the issue as a priority, participating in industry-wide collaboration like we have in the past with health and safety."
We all have a role to play in making the workplace inclusive.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering the industry?
Do it! It’s a great industry to be in, a real work-hard, play-hard ethic, and nothing beats the feeling of handing over the building you have been working on for the last couple of years.
For the readers, what can they do as an individual to push for greater equality?
There are lots of things individuals can do, for example: talk to your senior leaders about setting up internal support networks, become a mentor or sponsor (particularly for someone from an underrepresented group), ask to see your organisation’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy (if they don’t have one, ask why?), become a STEM Ambassador and go out and speak to schools, find the allies in the office who can openly talk about diversity and inclusion, follow the #heforshe initiative and call out inappropriate behaviour – the list goes on, and I’m happy to speak to anyone who wants to find out more.
If you wish to connect with Sharon about addressing these issues, please see her information below:
If you would like to share yours or someone else’s story in the Spotlight on Diversity Champions blog series, please email Jordan@maddoxevents.com
Interested in supercharging your career?
The Women in Construction Summit returns for 2019. To find out more, click here.