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Ethics For Constructors: How Does Unconscious Bias Impact Ethics in Construction?

Unconscious bias is a common issue in the construction industry due to the nature of the work and the historical assignment of roles. To elevate the quality of construction work, companies need to do their part addressing this ethical issue so that more individuals can participate in the industry and make a positive contribution to the advancement of the industry.

Construction has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, as evidenced by women holding 10.9 percent of all U.S. construction jobs, according to the latest statistics published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, an increasing number of women are in key roles such as company owners, C-Suite executives, construction managers, and project managers.

It’s time for the construction industry to better reflect the growing diversity of the industry by addressing unconscious bias. Consider how to address this specific issue related to ethics in construction by examining the scenario we outline below.

An Example of Unconscious Bias in Construction

– Ethics in Construction Situation: A female project manager graduated from an accredited school 8 years ago. She has been with the same company the entire time and recently moved up to become a lead project manager on large complex projects. She is responsible for taking projects from the bid phase through completion.

Since assuming this new responsibility in the company, she has noticed that whenever she makes a pitch for a project, conducts a project meeting, or negotiates change orders, the other individuals in the room often turn to her male boss during the presentations to ask him if he concurs. Or, they ask if he has reviewed her work.

The implication in this situation is that the other people in the meeting do not believe what the female project manager is saying. They seem to prefer to hear what the boss has to say.

Ethics in Construction Response: This situation is an ethical issue that captures unconscious bias. Those who are turning to the male boss to hear his viewpoint may not be aware that what they are doing is disrespectful or even hurtful. Some of this bias can arise due to the age or gender of the person leading the project. It causes people to seek reassurances from the person who they believe is more experienced. This is not ethical.

If you find yourself in this position, one solution is to have a conversation with your boss. He may not know what the actions of the others really mean and how they could negatively impact your ability to perform at the highest level creating value for your company, the project, and owners.

Then, both of you can come up with some go-to statements that your boss can use in the future when you are questioned about what you are saying during a meeting. A response such as “she’s got this” or “she speaks for the company” should get the message across that you are in charge.

Follow the AIC Code of Ethics in Construction

The purpose of the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) is to promote individual professionalism and excellence throughout the construction field. We strongly emphasize ethics in construction so that constructors can work together in a productive, positive, and professional manner as they undertake complex works to serve stakeholders.

One of the pillars of our mission is to encourage equitable and professional relationships between constructors and all other entities in the construction process. This relationship thrives when all parties treat each other in a respectful manner based on making proper judgments about each person they come in contact with.

Eliminating unconscious bias represents a positive step forward to support the advancement of the industry by enabling more voices to be heard and more leaders to emerge. Then, the industry will be better positioned to deliver projects that meet a higher quality standard, which will benefit society as a whole.

– To participate in the growth of the industry, we encourage you to become an AIC member. We need experienced construction professionals to support our organization as we collectively accelerate constructor excellence through programs, education, and certifications.

– We also encourage you to subscribe to the AIC email newsletter. You’ll start to receive valuable information directly to your inbox. Simply scroll down to the email signup box at the bottom of this page and enter your email address to access the resources we make available to constructors.

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