New England and New York are well-known as centers for progressive social thought and activism, which stems in large part from the close association with the many colleges and universities, their students and faculty. Colleges and universities have worked in recent years to create more inclusive campuses, drawing students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds. Colleges have embraced and promoted diversity and inclusion, understanding their benefits for their students and themselves.
Meanwhile, the construction industry is one of the least diverse industries. Women comprise just 3% of the workforce nationally, and people of color are under-represented as well. Because colleges and universities spend hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations and new construction each year, their impact on the industry is significant. Consequently, their decisions, positive or negative, will have real impact on the whether our area’s construction workforce represents the communities’ demographics and women and people of color have equal opportunity to work and succeed.
Colleges and universities can use their spending not only to change the face of their campuses, but to drive change in the construction workforce. While many contractors in our region employ all white male work crews, or crews with far fewer women and people of color than is reflected in our communities and campuses, higher educational institutions can influence a progressive shift of hiring higher percentages of women and people of color by setting new standards for general contractors and subcontractors. Over time, colleges can intentionally direct work towards construction contractors who have made a commitment to consistently meet diversity standards and genuinely expand opportunity.