No More Wasted Talent

No More Wasted Talent Blog.jpg

Identity

One of the most difficult questions I am asked on a daily basis is “What do you do?” I am an architect, a former electrician, a social entrepreneur and founder of Built By Us, and I’m honoured to be a charity Trustee and an elected member of the Architects Registration Board (ARB).

I am an individual who wears many hats and assumes different professional identities. What drives my work is that I hate to see wasted talent. And in construction and architecture, we have become too used to believing that talent comes in a particular package. My belief is that we need to challenge the lazy preconceptions that have been allowed to flourish in our culture about who in our society has the potential for greatness and to provide a safe space for the potential to grow.

I am also a Black, British female of Jamaican heritage and like the majority of people in the UK I attended a comprehensive secondary school. I am from a single parent family and our level of income meant that I qualified for free schools meals. This is not the typical background or profile for an architect, a board member or a professional.

While only 7% of the UK population attend independent schools, according to Alan Milburn's report on Social Mobility: Fair Access to the Professions, 75% of people in professional roles have been schooled independently. And this report highlights that it’s not just an independent education that provides a sound platform for progression, it also accesses to networks of people and connections which help to open up opportunities.  This begs the questions: What role is state education playing in nurturing talent? And, how can the majority access the support and networks necessary to fulfil their potential?

In some ways, my personal profile, like my professional life is complex and multi-layered, no one aspect of which fully defines me. And I believe it is not only one aspect of a profile that impacts the ability to progress.  

The need for a holistic approach

It is only by understanding how diversity characteristics interact with each other (i.e. those which are protected and those which are acquired) that we can really and truly address difference, diversity and discrimination.

 

“If we aren’t intersectional, some of us, the most vulnerable, will fall through the cracks”

Kimberle Williams Crenshaw

 

What this means for me is that  if we as a sector and as individuals are to truly address discrimination, we need to be taking a holistic approach, recognising the individual and combined impact of protected characteristics such as gender and race, but also encompassing income, caring responsibilities and all the places where those strands overlap. And ideally, the solution should be created and co-designed with the input of those impacted.

For individuals pursuing their aspirations in architecture who are impacted by intersectionality, trying to navigate the barriers of gender, class and ethnicity can be exhausting. Not surprisingly many are put off before they even start; they may drop away during their studies or within the first few years of qualifying.

The RIBA did a piece of work looking at the average time it takes to qualify as an architect. On average it’s 9.5 years in the UK.

Looking in more depth at the RIBA’s data on education there are reasons to be positive and it would appear that efforts to widen participation are making an impact. In 2015/16 there were 3,741 new entrants to Part 1 full-time courses. Of the total number of full-time entrants to Part 1, 49% were female. 32% of those Part 1 students were from Black and Ethnic Minority (BAME) backgrounds. While this sounds positive it is worth noting that the data set includes students from around the world.

 

Retaining Talent

According to RIBA around 1,000 people, on average, each year, take and pass the Part 3 exam which allows them to register as an architect. Of that number around 35% of passes are achieved by women, 11% are BAME and 1% identify as Black British, that’s as few as 10 a year.

Given my background and heritage, it is clear to see that the chances of my becoming an architect were statistically unlikely. It’s incredible to think that when I qualified I may have been just one of a handful of black British women to become an architect that year.

However, the challenges I have faced on my career journey are not just about gender or educational structures, access to networks, stereotyping or access to financial support, all of which work together against the most vulnerable to create a series of barriers.

In order to address diversity and inclusion, we need to be looking at all of these issues holistically. We need to address the entire talent supply chain, the image of our industry, practical support and create a cohort of inclusive leaders. We need to see diversity as an opportunity for disruption.

So what might a more holistic approach look like?

The FLUID Diversity Mentoring Programme

It started at Architects for Change and is now run by Built By Us as part of our mission to diversify the construction sector. Our vision is for a construction sector that reflects the society it serves.

We do that by connecting diverse talent with opportunities in construction, supporting companies on their journey to being inclusive workplaces and fostering inclusive and diverse leadership through mentoring interventions.

Why FLUID? Started in 2012 it was developed to address under-representation and the higher levels of attrition for diverse talent. FLUID is designed to aid career progression and most importantly to help develop leadership skills.

The programme encourages applications from women, black and minority ethnic (BAME), those disadvantaged socioeconomically, LGBT people and people with disabilities.

FLUID uses a traditional model of mentoring, i.e. someone more experienced paired with someone less experienced. But we also leverage the opportunity for cross-discipline knowledge transfer by attracting a pan-professional cohort of mentors.

We support people at key stages of their careers, which means the mentees can be from student through to managerial level.

What does it involve? Mentors and mentees are matched for 12-month partnerships. We are currently in the midst of matching the 2017-2018 cohort, which we believe will be the largest one yet.

Back in 2012, we started with 20 pairings and over 5 years we’ve facilitated mentoring partnerships benefiting over 125 mentees, who have gone on to become leaders in their organisations.

 

The potential for apprenticeships

For more than 50 years architecture and other professions have favoured higher education as the principal pathway and despite major changes in funding the structure has remained constant.

Contracting organisations over this period have been contributing to an apprenticeship training fund via the Industrial Training Boards or ITBs. With a new levy, there is a real opportunity for the professions to engage with apprenticeships, and work has already begun.

A group of 20 practices and educators in architecture convened at the RIBA and began this journey in September 2016. The need to address the cost of education and the effect that this is having on the profile of architects emerging from schools of architecture was identified as a key challenge.

 

Two apprenticeship standards have been approved by the Department of Education for further development: Architectural Assistant (level 6 - Part 1 equivalent) and Architect (level 7, beyond part 1). It is hoped that 2018 will see the first architecture apprentices beginning their training. And as long as the quality of the courses and rewards ensure that the widest talent pool can access the profession, this could have the potential of making architecture and other professional careers an option for all.
 

The tools are being put into place, but they are only as good as we are, in terms of crafting the industry we wish to see and ensuring that talent is no longer wasted.

Apprenticeships and Diversity - The Business Mix Podcast

Check out the Business Mix Podcast with the awesome Christine Addy and Rachael Palmer and Danna Walker, Founder of Built By Us.

Click below to find out what inspired Built By Us, how apprenticeships work and why diversity matters.

Follow the Business Mix on Twitter @TheBMixShow 

The Business Mix Show is broadcast on Colourful Radio http://www.colourfulradio.com/ 

 

Learning to Lead Through Mentoring

Image courtesy of Rachel Cherry Photographer

Image courtesy of Rachel Cherry Photographer

Leadership can be a difficult skill to define but most of us know almost instinctively when we see or experience poor leadership. Research in the US and UK has shown that excellent leadership impacts positively on profitability, with incomes increased 200 - 300% compared with organisations with good leaders. So what is leadership and is this a skill that can be taught?

“Leadership is a process of social influence which maximises the efforts of others towards an achievement or goal”

Web Definition

Leadership is a distinctive set of skills and responsibilities which may overlap but are normally quite different to management skills. As we begin what many are calling the Fourth Industrial Age, what we have previously accepted as good leadership will probably need to adapt.

“Ensuring successful adaptation against a backdrop of increasing uncertainty and complexity means leadership becomes less about directive structured approaches seeking predictable outcomes and more about empowering others to make effective and timely decisions.”

Giles Hutchins Leadership of the Future, The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/leadership-future-diversity-creativity-cocreation

And now the tricky question: Can leadership be taught? Many organisations and we see this particularly in the UK construction sector, seem to believe that leadership ability comes naturally or that it can be developed while undertaking a management role. I believe that leadership skills can be fostered and taught and that we will need a wider range of leaders to meet our future needs.

While commentators differ on exactly what constitutes key leadership skills, here’s a list of the attributes which many agree on:

  1. Awareness
  2. Accountability
  3. Confidence
  4. Optimism
  5. Empathy
  6. Creativity
  7. Positivity
  8. Trustworthiness
  9. Communication
  10. Responsibility

Interestingly the majority of the skills needed for optimal leadership are also needed in good mentors and these can be developed through effective mentoring relationships particularly in a structured programme.

"Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé or mentee)." (Bozeman, Feeney, 2007)

Mentoring builds leadership skills by requiring participants to actively listen, which helps with building Empathy and Communication skills. It helps to create regular Reflective Practice encouraging greater Self Awareness. As a mentor, it is important not to jump into the role of directing the mentee but to act as a sounding board helping the partner to better understand themselves while gaining confidence in their own perspective and judgement.

Trustworthiness is built into the process as the rapport between the partners develops. And within the FLUID Diversity Mentoring Programme model, we have encouraged Accountability through the use of coaching techniques to identify goals and implement an action plan.

Mentoring offers huge opportunities to grow the leadership skills required from the people already in your business, also allowing people who may not yet be in a supervisory or managerial position to use the skills and competencies required.

Whether mentoring is delivered as an in-house programme or external opportunity it is worth considering the use of this 3,000-year-old strategy as a way of learning to lead.

 

Built By Us is on a mission to connect diverse talent to construction businesses, support companies on their journey to becoming inclusive workplaces and develop leaders through mentoring.

Contact us to find out how we can help.

How to tell your daughter 'she’s not worth it'…

Graduation

I am writing this piece from the Southbank Centre which has become one of the go-to venues in London for university graduation ceremonies. It looks like a fun event, beaming students adjusting their ceremonial gowns, hugging fellow graduates and attempting to mimic that iconic image of mortar boards being thrown into the air (while trying not to take their guests’ eyes out!).

Incredibly proud parents dressed to the nines, try their best not to well-up and to capture every moment of the pomp and ceremony. It’s a huge investment of blood, sweat, tears and cash to put your children through university in the UK. According to NUS figures the average cost, per student, per academic year, is £10,133.

But, as I watch I wonder, at what point, if any, do parents who have invested equally in the futures of their sons and daughter, and watched as their children struggle with the same student anxieties, have the conversation about their value? And specifically, in the world of work, how their daughters will experience unfairness from the moment they begin their working lives - how do you tell your daughters that in the most jobs they are considered less valuable than their brothers?

In the largest piece of research conducted by the UK government in 2016, it was reported that within one year of graduation the majority of women will face a gender pay gap which then widens over time.

 

 

Excuses, Excuses

The Equal Pay Act came into force in the UK in 1970 so this is not a new issue, and unfortunately, though the lives of women have changed in many ways since equal pay passed into law, the excuses for the chronic underpayment of women remain almost unchanged. Here are some of the common ones:

1. Women are choosing to work in roles which attract less pay - a popular assumption by many but the data shows that women are paid less in almost all roles including those with pay grades.

“Even in nursing, a course dominated by women students, men were still earning about £2,000 more just a year after graduation”

Source Guardian article 14th June 2017
 

2. Women are less skilled. Again, women are paid less at all levels, and interestingly, while the gap has narrowed slightly in the UK, it varies in relation to seniority.
 

“For high earners (top decile), the gap for full-time employees has remained largely consistent, fluctuating approximately 20 per cent (18.8 per cent in 2016).”

Source Equal Pay Portal http://www.equalpayportal.co.uk/statistics/

3. But women “go off” and have children. For me, this makes no sense in the 21st century. It is an incredibly odd thing to say that we apply a tax to half the planet based on the idea that whoever is ensuring the survival of humankind automatically provides less value.

It’s a form of tax that pays no dividends (except for employers) and ensures pound for pound women always pay more for investing in their careers. There is no discount on student fees or professional membership for women - here there is absolute equality!

Continuing this pernicious practice into the 21st century is not just plain wrong, it ignores the strides made by women in transforming themselves and society. And while the UK government makes efforts to challenge the pay gap for women, it is also key to look in depth at how intersectional issues are further compounding messages on value being received by, for example, disabled women and women of colour.

Consigned to history

Should things continue as they are, it is predicted it would take 52 years to arrive at equal pay for equal work. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the graduates I saw celebrating at the Southbank could speak about this with their children as something consigned to history, like women not being able to vote or attend university at all? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they never ever have to have a conversation with their daughters about equal pay?

 

Built By Us and Southbank Place celebrate International Women in Engineering Day 2017

To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day on 23 June 2017, Canary Wharf Contractors Limited (CWCL) welcomed Built By Us (BBU) construction career candidates and supporters to its Southbank Place development. Through visiting Canary Wharf Group and Qatari Diar’s mixed-use development, which will include residential, commercial and retail units, construction candidates were able to gain an insight into a working construction site.

Image courtesy of Suzanne Habuka http://www.susannehakuba.com/index

Image courtesy of Suzanne Habuka http://www.susannehakuba.com/index

The visit formed part of a programme of experience-based careers information, which BBU offers as part of its mission to connect diverse talent with construction businesses. Through providing careers support and inclusive recruitment services, BBU is able to connect companies with the right skills for their projects. Women who are considering a career in construction were encouraged to attend the event, which was open to those aged 18+.

Image courtesy of Suzanne Habuka http://www.susannehakuba.com/index

Image courtesy of Suzanne Habuka http://www.susannehakuba.com/index

Canary Wharf Group and Qatari Diar’s vision for Southbank Place, is to create a masterpiece in construction while maintaining communication and harmony with its valued neighbours and stakeholders. The event celebrated and recognised the work that Southbank Place is doing to engage with the local community.

Speaking after the event BBU founder, Danna Walker, said

“I can’t thank everyone at CWCL enough for making this visit possible. It represented a rare opportunity for BBU candidates to see an operation of this magnitude and complexity first-hand. The logistics, skills and dedication required to make such a complex project operate efficiently and successfully are truly impressive. “

 

Notes

About Canary Wharf Contractors Ltd

CWCL’s vision for the construction of Southbank Place is that it will set a new standard in the Waterloo district for the future residents and occupants of the homes, offices and shops in the area.

About Qatari Diar

Qatari Diar is a global leader in sustainable real estate, building landmark projects of unrivalled scope and vision. We create vibrant communities dedicated to capturing the hearts and imaginations of the people we serve. These developments are conceived from our commitment to preserving and reflecting local characters and traditions and our visions have created places with a sense of identity and purpose where people aspire to live, work and visit.

Qatari Diar’s European operation is based in London, and boasts several key local projects, including a landmark residential development at the 12 acre Chelsea Barracks site in Belgravia; Southbank Place, a mixed-use joint venture between Qatari Diar and Canary Wharf Group situated in a prime central London location on the south bank of the River Thames; 30 Grosvenor Square, the current US Embassy in London, which will become a luxury hotel, retail and event space; and East Village & Elephant Park, a joint venture with Delancey and APG, offering more than 4000 private residential apartments for rent. 

Qatari Diar seeks to harness the world’s greatest architectural and design talent in order to create sustainable communities that will stand the test of time. 

www.qataridiar.com

About Canary Wharf Group

Canary Wharf Group plc has overseen the largest urban regeneration project ever undertaken in Europe, designing and building more than 17m sq ft of London real estate, which now houses local and international companies and renowned retailers.

The Canary Wharf Estate is a major retail destination comprising around 1m sq ft across five shopping malls, including the award-winning leisure development, Crossrail Place, housing one of London’s most stunning roof gardens.  It also has world-class, year-round arts and events programme offering over 200 diverse and culturally inspiring events performed throughout the Estate.

Canary Wharf Group is a wholly owned joint venture between Brookfield Property Partners and the Qatar Investment Authority.

Website: www.canarywharf.com

Instagram: @canarywharflondon
Twitter @CanaryWharfGrp@YourCanaryWharf@Level39CW

Guest Blog | I'm an Architect - Yay! By Charlene Campbell

Finally, I have done it. I’ve reached my goal. Becoming an Architect is a personal achievement of persistence and dedication, as well as a great career move…but that was two and a half years ago.

In that time I have become a mother and a director at Green Tea Architects, a small firm in SE4. It is a practice that I have been working at for the past five years…and yes, in that order, mother and director!

I decided to write this piece and start a blog called Architect London in order to share my experiences with people interested in starting a career in construction and women reluctant to take the leap due to their current or future work-home life-balance considerations.

When I told people what I was studying, the most common question was - “Oh that’s a long course, you could have been a doctor!” Inside I used to think, but I don’t want to become a doctor, I wanted to be an Architect. I want to breathe life into new buildings and fix broken ones, not people.

What I like most about being an Architect is the varied nature of each project. No two jobs are the same, even small domestic projects. Not only this but seeing a project you imagined slowly come to life and finally see in use, is amazing. At Green Tea Architects, we have been fortunate to work on a number of projects which have created better environments for their inhabitants to work, play, live, learn and pray. This gives you a profound sense of achievement. Like the course, each project takes persistence and dedication but also requires teamwork and collaboration with other professionals.

As you may or may not know, the course is broken down into three stages. Part One – The Degree, Part Two – The Diploma and Part Three – Professional Practice in Architecture. Twenty-four months of experience is also required generally after Part One and Part Two. These months give real insights into working in an office and provide a new set of skills and knowledge that feedback into your university work. Part Three is undertaken part-time whilst employed at a practice and this is where you learn about contracts and running a business. This is the only time you undertake a written exam, submissions are otherwise portfolio based.

The course itself is varied in terms of what you need to generate - drawings from hand drawn sketches to CAD, and renders to maquette or detailed models to life size technical details. You acquire a great set of skills that you use throughout your career and life, which in turn enables you to be the Architect you want to be.

Whether it’s building bridges like Santiago Calatrava, London buses or an Olympic Caldron like Thomas Heatherwick, or even a brit award or Aquatic Centre like Zaha Hadid, the opportunities are endless!

I will end with what the course leader on the first day of my architectural education said to me - “Once you start on this course you will never look at anything the same again.”

By Charlene Campbell

Charlene Campbell is a thirty-one-year-old architect and new mother to an adorable baby named Bailey living and working in London. Currently a director at a small practice in South London situated in an old converted tea factory harmoniously named Green Tea Architects. Charlene is also a blogger documenting the intersections worlds of career and motherhood.

If you would like to share your story or write a blog for BBU then get in touch. Email info@builtbyus.org.uk for more info.