Welcome to ‘The DEI Digest’ with Romey Oulton, a Q&A focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Built Environment.
This Q&A series is an opportunity for our North American Consultant Romey Oulton to discuss Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Built Environment with lead changemakers in the space who are championing DEI. Each week we will ask burning questions, providing a platform to share career advice, discuss innovative strategies to overcome challenges, and how to lead by example.
Winnovation is related to Bouygues, a worldwide diversified industrial group based in France and organized around 3 sectors of activity: construction, telecoms and medias.
Their mission is to help Bouygues group in their needs with the American market by providing strategic insights and partnerships.
What does diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you and why are they important?
Giving the same chance to everybody to achieve their goal whatever their gender or origins. Diversity, equity and inclusion bring new ideas, opens ones mind, and boost financial results.
Just 10% of the construction sector in the US was represented by women and most of that was in office operation positions rather than on the field — is this a challenge when it comes to hiring for your business? If so, how do you navigate such an issue?
We have about the same representation of women in the construction sector in France (12.9% in 2022) and the same occupancy rate in offices as in the field.
Attracting and retaining women in construction is one of our biggest challenges. We are betting a lot on young talent, which involves raising awareness of the construction world among young girls from an early age. For example, the Group is in partnership with the association “Elles Bougent” to introduce young women to engineering and technical professions. Through site visits and discussions with our female employees about their career paths and the opportunities that the construction industry can offer, we show female students that a career in STEM is an excellent option for a girl and that it is not a world only reserved for men.
Internally, through various programs, we support career plans and optimize the success of our female talent. The “Trajectory” program, for example, is aimed at female talent and seeks to increase the presence of women in executive and management committee positions. We also provide various training courses to our employees on the fight against sexism and stereotypes, and we also take action at the leadership level with training on inclusive management.
We place great importance on internal mobility and the possibility for our female talent to move into construction jobs by supporting them in their training and re-skilling. Here is an excellent example of one of our employees who left a communication position to become a construction supervisor.
Also, our BYTOGETHER collective, which brings together all the Group’s female and mixed networks, has set up several actions to enable our female talents to develop internally and to support them in their mobility through conferences, mentoring programs, personal development workshops, etc.
Why is it that the construction industry is deemed ‘slow’ or ‘resistant’ to adopting technology? Is this justified? If so, what are some of the barriers you’re seeing?
Construction is slower than other sectors. Our productivity decreases. We need technology to do better, faster and cheaper. Nevertheless, it is true that we are more resistant to adopting technology. It is a long process, because we were used to do this way for decades. It is challenging to deeply transform an industry. One of the biggest barriers is culture. Construction is about human-being working on a site. We need to actively involve them to drive changes.
What will be the biggest trend in the ConTech space in 2023? What will be the biggest challenge?
The biggest trend in ConTech space in 2023 will be about AI. The release of ChatGPT in early 2023 has democratized this technology. Now everybody talks about AI and wants to try AI solutions for their businesses. But we still need to drive cultural changes to get an efficient adoption of this technology.
Are you seeing any specific trends around DEI in the Construction space?
Of course, we see growing initiatives about women in construction. Events are popping up for women empowerment in construction, for example. That’s amazing! I am part of women in contech community and it has helped me so much to build a network and get confident in my daily work.
With this new fund, what areas of ConTech will you focus into? E.g. sustainability, robotics etc.
Bouygues and ISAI announce the creation of the ISAI Build Venture investment fund. Its purpose is to invest in start-ups that develop software and hardware solutions capable of speeding up the transformation and decarbonisation of Bouygues’ business segments in the fields of construction, property development as well as in transport, and energy and services infrastructure.
The fund will use its €80 million of capital to acquire minority interests during funding rounds ranging from seed to series C. ISAI Build Venture aims to allocate between €500,000 to €5 million for each investment.
Are VCs only key to success for ConTech start-ups?
VCs are great to get funding. One of the main key to success is partnering with construction companies to test their product, get feedback and improve their solution to get something that will fit with market needs.
What is your guilty pleasure? Favorite song?
I love French rap. They get inspiration from different types of music, and different cultures to make something unique that sounds pretty good. It is a great example of melody-diversity!
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