How Mace, a global consultancy and construction firm, have put Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) at the top of their agenda

June marks Pride Month, a month dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ communities all around the world. But Pride Month isn’t just about people coming together in love and friendship, but an important show of how far gay rights have come since the Stonewall riots in 1969. As well as a platform to educate others in pride history and the continued movement forward in equality.

Within the workplace, a key part of D&I strategies is creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ employees. And by prioritising diversity and inclusion within their organisations, companies can play a huge role in raising greater awareness of LGBTQ+ issues more widely, whilst also representing a modern world within their workforce.

With conversations around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) moving away from the “why” to focus on the “how”, we recently spoke with Karl Allcoat, Technical Advisor and Architect at Mace, who also co-chairs the network, Pride at Mace, about the importance of D&I and how Mace have brought it to life within their organisation.

In your opinion, why is LGBTQ+ inclusion important within workplace?

LGBTQ+ inclusion is incredibly important due to the often ‘hidden’ nature of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. We talk about coming out, typically for the first time to our family or friends; it can be a nerve-racking experience and takes a lot of courage, but we don’t simply come out once; it is an ongoing experience for everyone we meet, professionally and personally.

That’s why having an inclusive environment, where people can be themselves without fear of being judged or discriminated against, is so important. Watching what you say and correcting people all the time adds a lot of pressure on people mentally, which can impact on their ability to do their job effectively and enjoy what they do in the workplace.

Where has Mace come from, in terms of D&I and LGBTQ+ inclusion, and where are you hoping to get to?

Mace’s diversity and inclusion journey has developed organically with the establishment of employee network groups led by passionate colleagues. Since Pride at Mace, our LGBTQ+ and allies network, was established in 2017, we now have six employee network groups, covering;

  • LGBTQ+ (Pride at Mace)
  • Ethnicity and culture
  • Gender
  • Disability
  • Military
  • Parents

Our employee networks are transforming the way we work through shared experiences – creating awareness, knowledge, and education.

In 2020, we launched our D&I strategy, with the employee network groups providing their insights and support to develop the approach. As a business, creating a truly diverse and inclusive workforce is at the top of our agenda, with the goal of being an industry leader in diversity and inclusion.

Tell us more about Pride at Mace, how was it started? What is its role and aims?

Pride at Mace, was the first network to be setup by a small group of passionate people in September 2017, meeting in the canteen at our head office. From there, it really snowballed into a driving force for change in the business, both in terms of LGBTQ+ inclusion and progress with D&I.

Our thanks go out to our first Board sponsor Dennis Hone, Mace’s previous CFO, who really helped raise the profile of Pride at Mace in the business and to senior leadership. Since then, the network has expanded to over 200 people, including a US-based employee network. More recently, we’ve had a lot of allies join the network, so we’re seeing a broader interest in D&I from more people.

Our vision is shared by all of our employee networks, to build a progressive and inclusive workplace, where everyone can feel comfortable being themselves every day and to be proud of who they are. We do this by providing resources, training, and educational sessions to everyone in the network to raise awareness of key LGBTQ+ issues, and fostering a safe space for LGBTQ+ colleagues to meet like-minded people and share their experiences.

At a personal level, being part of the network and steering committee has given me an incredible group of friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

What does your role as co-chair of Pride at Mace entail?

Being co-chair of Pride at Mace involves a bit of everything really. In essence, you are a leader of a team, overseeing and delivering a broad range of activities. We hold monthly steering committee meetings to discuss progress on our actions and to provide a forum for wider LGBTQ+ issues. As co-chair, I report into our Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee, who is responsible for implementing our D&I strategy.

Alongside the admin, there’s a very person-oriented aspect to the role. As a visible member of the network, I’m often the first point of contact for people, having confidential conversations with them on a broad range of topics. The wonderful aspect of this is seeing colleagues come out, share their stories, and be more comfortable being their authentic selves.

What has been your biggest learning?

On a personal level, it’s very much been a positive challenge having had limited involvement with the LGBTQ+ community, despite being openly gay. It’s challenged my biases, greatly opening my eyes. And it’s encouraged me to step-up into a leadership role which I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do as someone starting out in their career.

At a network level, during the first year or so, it was a lot of trial and error to see what worked, and what didn’t. We are still learning and bounce ideas off each of the other groups. There’s no rulebook on how to run an employee network, and less so I would say in the construction industry.

Can you give any examples of things you’ve implemented which have had the biggest impact?

We have found lunch and learn sessions to be very effective in raising awareness for our network, particularly for new members and allies, whilst providing a safe space to ask questions and speak openly. These have been themed around celebration days throughout the year, providing a simple structure to follow. We have covered topics such as how to be a trans ally, to hosting external speakers, sharing their lived experiences. All of our employee networks host similar kinds of sessions on a regular basis.

In Pride at Mace, we always try to make it fun, as well as provide an educational message. It helps to create a more relaxed environment which is invaluable to including people in the D&I journey.

What advice would you give to other organisations looking at their D&I strategy?

Involvement from senior leadership, positive role models, and allies are all crucial to developing and implementing a D&I strategy. You need people who are passionate, open-minded, and engaged in creating positive change for a diverse workforce and inclusive workplace. Employee network groups play a part in this, as does everyone else in the business.

Changes will take time, so be patient and persistent. Offer educational training resources to all employees on the subject of D&I as a whole, and specific sessions for all protected characteristics. And involve people in the journey, don’t assume that they will pick it up immediately or even want to, there is no one size fits all approach.

We’re extremely grateful to Karl, for sharing his knowledge and experiences with us, showcasing the great strides Mace is making in the D&I space.

At WIG, one of the core themes, underpinning our events and content focusses on ‘People’. There is growing momentum behind organisational shifts in HR, L&D and D&I practices alongside a need for new approaches to leadership. Find out more here.