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Blog|November 7, 2021

First DEI Forum Initiates Open, Honest Discussions about Creating Inclusive Workplace Cultures

AGC’s first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Forum kicked off on September 29 with engaging, empathetic, and productive discussions around how to move a company from awareness to action when incorporating a workplace culture of inclusion. Learn about the key takeaways and topics for the next meetings to come.

In May 2020, AGC of California set out on a journey to lead open and honest conversations that will foster a culture of inclusion in the construction industry. AGC is committed to helping our member companies embrace DEI work so our industry as a whole can better attract, develop, and retain the diverse workforce of California. As a way to encourage learning and to share resources, AGC of California’s DEI Steering Committee launched its DEI Forum (Forum) on September 29, 2021, where nearly 80 executives, managers, and individual contributors from across California attended the first meeting.

The 90-minute session started with words of welcome from Mike Blach, 2020-21 President, AGC of California, and Chairman, Blach Construction Company, as well as AGC’s DEI Guidelines for Inclusive Conversations (Guidelines). The Guidelines are meant to encourage every participant to stay open-minded, be aware of their biases, and promote empathy and growth. While there is much work to be done to make the construction industry truly inclusive and equitable for all, incorporating these guidelines helps to create a safe place — a step in the right direction.

The Forum then jumped into highly engaged discussions, using real-time polls to gather participant feedback about the successes and challenges of DEI in our workplaces, facilitated by the Chair and Vice-Chair of the DEI Steering Committee: Dr. Giovanna Brasfield, Brasfield & Associates, and Chris Jones, ACCO Engineered Systems.

Key Takeaway: Increased Understanding Leads to Action

In the Forum, members shared that increasing company awareness about lived experiences of marginalized people and helping leadership understand the need for change has helped companies to move forward and adopt concrete measures, such as:

  • Adding pronouns to email signatures;
  • Recruiting candidates that are a “culture-add” rather than a “culture-fit”;
  • Hosting open discussions; and,
  • Offering employees continuing education on DEI-related topics to further encourage empathy and learning.

Future Forum Meetings

During the Forum, attendees submitted a wide range of ideas for future meeting topics, including:

  • Promoting psychological safety in the workplace
  • Starting employee resource groups
  • Equitable mentoring
  • How to have tough conversations when meeting people where they are on their DEI journey.

Because of the Forum members’ courage to share, willingness to listen, and desire to learn, our 90 minutes together was filled with engaging and inspired conversations.

To learn more about how you can evolve your company culture to be inclusive for all Californians, join the conversations at our next DEI Forum meeting on Thursday, December 9, 2021 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can register here and reach out to Yuhi Aizawa Combatti at CombattiY@agc-ca.org to get involved.

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