Vive la différence

Skanska’s Pia Höök highlights why diversity and inclusion are at the top of the agenda.

Skanska is committed to being a global leader in diversity and inclusion.

"Diversity and inclusion are vitally important to Skanska. We're a people company. It's about making sure that we are an attractive employer and business partner," says Pia Höök, Skanska's Global Diversity Manager, based in Stockholm in Sweden. "We want the people who work for us to come from the biggest talent pool possible. An inclusive workplace also promotes creativity and innovation."

The global perspective

"Being a multi-national company is a great strength when it comes to improving diversity and inclusion," says Höök. "Diversity is about differences between people. Some of these differences are related to areas of historic inequalities in society such as gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Some are purely to do with the individual, related to everything that makes us unique. "Inclusion is about how all of us are expected to treat people different to ourselves. In an inclusive culture we treat each other with respect, openness, and care. It is a learning culture that allows everyone to fully contribute."

Höök adds there are similarities in the construction industry in different countries: "Wherever you go, it tends to have been dominated by white men: it's a general trend. While there are always local variations to the challenges we face – for example, Poland has a very homogeneous society – there are lots of common themes.

"One of the challenges is that the industry is very decentralised. Change is never easy, but it's much easier to do if you have a centralised organisation. There is a lot that the sector could learn from other industries and companies such as IBM, IKEA, Sodexo and EY (Ernst and Young).

"We are seeing that more and more people want to work in a diverse environment, with people who are different from themselves. For instance, in some traditionally male-dominated workplaces, we are seeing that younger men want to work in mixed environments, with men and women."

Wherever you go, the sector tends to have been dominated by white men: it's a general trend.

Skanska has set out a global diversity and inclusion vision. Each of its operations, including Skanska UK, has carried out a detailed analysis of the local and regional challenges and produced an action plan to improve diversity and inclusion. Each business has appointed an advocate – someone at a senior strategic level – to push forward the agenda.

"I've seen some great initiatives throughout the company. Skanska Sweden and Skanska Poland have done a lot of work around recruitment and how to appeal to a wider group of people.

"In Poland, Skanska is the most popular employer among all women engineers. Skanska USA has successfully developed and launched 'inclusive leadership conversations' to increase managers' awareness and commitment. This format is now spreading to other parts of the firm, for instance Skanska Finland."

Höök has praise for Skanska UK: "The President and CEO, Mike Putnam, and his senior team, very strongly support the diversity and inclusion agenda. You need that management commitment in order to be successful. It's about senior managers sending out a strong message that they walk the talk."

"Over the last ten years, I think the construction industry has changed for the better," comments Höök. "But, we still have a long way to go. Change takes time: it's worth it at the end of the day."

Last updated: 23/01/2017