New CIOB president calls for more diversity in construction

New Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) president Rebecca Thompson has called for greater diversity in the construction industry and the policies and processes to encourage more women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities to be actively welcomed into the industry.

Thompson, who has trained as a specialist in heritage conservation, takes over from Paul Nash as the 114th president of the CIOB. She is only the second woman to assume the role, a fact that illustrates the challenges facing an industry which by its own admission has not had as diverse a workforce as it should have. Thompson pledged to make diversity and inclusion one of the major themes of her presidency, relating not just to the lack of women in the sector but also the disproportionately low numbers of people with disabilities or those from ethnic minorities. 

Giving her inaugural address, Thompson said: “At the heart of diversity is inclusion. It’s an attitude of ‘How can I make the work environment more conducive to people doing a good job’, regardless of their gender, ethnic background, or any disability. The better we make our industry, the more professional we are and the more we will attract young people.”

Thompson also highlighted the need for mentoring and support in her address: “Throughout my career, I was lucky enough to have mentors to encourage me in a world where, to be honest, women have been discouraged. I am grateful for their support, and I hope to pay them back by in turn supporting the next generation.” 

Thompson also said that the industry had a tremendous offer and a career where people could go back to a building years later and say, “I helped build that”. 

A lecturer in Building Studies at York College, Thompson currently runs her own business, Thompson Heritage Consultancy Ltd. She started her career in construction as a quantity surveyor at Shepherd Construction then proceeded through a range of roles as building inspector, commercial manager, and project manager. Thompson also worked at York Minister, initially as superintendent of works and then in a chief executive role.

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