Perspectives Papers | 2019

Closing the Diversity Gap in the Infrastructure Industry

This paper examines the diversity gap in the infrastructure industry, outlining a variety of statistics and indicators that show how women and racial minorities are underrepresented in leadership positions. The infrastructure industry consists of the government departments and private firms that together build large highways, transit lines, hospitals, water treatment plants, schools, recreation centres, courthouses, and prisons. It also includes the companies that are engaged in the rapid development of the next wave of smart-city technologies. This industry has not received the same level of scrutiny for its lack of diversity as high-profile sectors such as high tech, entertainment, business, and academia. Yet the infrastructure industry is a major source of employment, and the projects have a profound impact on the economic prosperity, equity, and environmental sustainability of the places in which they are built.

The current burst of urban infrastructure development around the world, as well as innovations in mobility, security, waste disposal, information technology, and smart-city infrastructure, will set cities on a path towards either inclusive prosperity or further social inequality. It is imperative that the leading decision makers in the industry are representative of the wider communities in which major infrastructure projects are planned, built, and operated. To this end, the paper identifies strategies to increase diversity in the administration of infrastructure, including increasing the pipeline of diverse talent, encouraging diverse hiring, changing workplace and industry culture to support diversity, and creating policies that support retention and promotion of a diverse workforce.

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