Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at DBEI

Firstly, DBEI’s mission is as follows:

The Digital Built Environment Institute is a not-for profit global organization dedicated to the advancement of people, processes and technology, and the improvement of productivity, efficiency, and sustainability for the built environment and the AECO industry. We do this by connecting industry participants to each other, and working collaboratively to identify the services, activities, and support structures that can be best employed to help all of us. We believe that our planet has significant issues that need to be addressed and that, at least in terms of the built environment, we have the people, the processes, the skills and the knowledge to effect change. The broad AECO industry has significant impact on the planet and together, through our individual and collective improvements, we can make that impact a positive one.
DBEI is not constrained by discipline, software platform, geography, or politics, but rather it is a unique community of industry participants driving and implementing continuous improvement that does not exist anywhere else, a community run by its members for its members.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ are words that have escalated in use over recent years, and this policy document sets out DBEI’s position on the broader subject.
DBEI is committed to ensuring that our community, made of various types of people within the AECOO industry, comprises a fair and reasonable cross-section of the broader demographic. Moreover, it is also committed to earnest assessment of what responsibilities or contributions we have with respect to the subject beyond this.

Fundamentally, our global community comprises the following:

  • Digital Built Environment Institute members. Membership is available in all regions. Some tiers of memberships are free while other require a small fee.
  • Those who view or participate in our digital events, whether webinars or longer virtual event formats. These too are available to anyone.
  • Those who attend and/or support our face-to-face events. These are attended by a wide range of people from all corners of the globe but are reliant on the ability to physically travel to the event location.
  • Those who are impacted by our community, whether through the initiatives we run or by interfacing with people who are directly part of our community.

Note: This document may be revised periodically, and we remain open to (and encourage) suggestions for improvement.

What we stand for:

  1. Firstly, we welcome all people, irrespective of any of the ‘protected classes’ of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability or religion. We believe that we are all created equal as humans, and no one group is inherently superior to another.
  2. We do not subscribe to the ideology of group identity – that is, that one’s value as a person or disposition on any given subject is determined simply by any immutable characteristics, such as skin colour or gender. Instead, we recognise that as humans, each capable of independent thought and shaped by our own experiences, we will differ in various ways. Occasionally, some of these differences may be problematic, while many others should be celebrated. They are often what makes us unique or special.
  3. We recognise that diversity is not limited to representation or involvement of a variety of people or protected classes, but that it also includes viewpoints and experiences, both personal and professional.
  4. We believe in the primacy of meritocracy. We support earnest efforts to achieve diversity in our speaker pool and among our attendees, but we reject appointments that ignore merit as the fundamental reason behind them.
  5. We unapologetically seek to attract the best in the business to our community – not the laggards, but the innovators, early adopters and thought leaders, to determine and espouse best practices in project delivery within (and sometimes beyond) our AECO industry. While all are welcome to be a part of our community, our event content is geared towards our target demographic.
  6. We believe progress necessitates questioning and challenging the status quo. We believe in free speech and expression, which may be manifest through robust yet respectful exchanges, where the ideas, concepts and methods are what is challenged – not the person expressing them. Like the tempering of a sword, this scrutiny makes subject ideas more robust and resilient. We have long sought to elevate and promote the ‘warts and all’ accounts and ‘unvarnished truths’ in conference sessions.
  7. We believe in earnest examination of how we may intentionally or unintentionally discriminate in what we do or how we do it. We support the removal of bias wherever possible, rather than reversal of bias, whereby appearing to remedy discrimination against one party then requires discrimination against another. We hold that by its nature, discrimination can be something of an oxymoron.
  8. We recognise that we can influence our community in many positive ways, and that our industry has some obvious characteristics – the primary one being that the overwhelming majority of our industry members, and hence conference attendees, are men.
  9. We actively value and encourage critical thinking; the careful examination of issues from multiple viewpoints, to identify and understand root causes beneath problems, rather than simply subscribing to populist views or dogma.

Examples of what we have done:

Action/Initiative Description
We have held several forums during recent events to explore aspects of diversity and inclusivity as a community. To date most of this has been focused on the issue of gender diversity, because it’s the most glaring issue, by observation, but we recognise it is far from the only one.
We introduced a ‘blind’ process to review speaker abstracts. We review without knowing the identity of the speaker; thereby assessing the abstract on its own merits. The event committees can’t inadvertently prefer gender or ethnic background that might otherwise be inferred from the speakers’ names.
We’ve sought to build diverse representation on the event committees, particularly to help us fairly review and address this issue of DEI.

 

In some of our regions the men in our teams are now outnumbered by the women; not strictly because of the implementation of DEI policy, but ultimately because of free choice and merit.
We have provided speaker coaching to a number of speakers to assist in their speaking skills and/or confidence. People less confident or experienced in speaking are supported, where they may otherwise refrain from attempting new, potentially challenging experiences.
We actively encourage consideration of a diverse range of candidates – particularly for panel discussions. We do not mandate inclusion of any particular person based on gender, ethnic background or any other category, but we do engage with proposed hosts/moderators who are appointing panellists to earnestly consider who is both deserving of a seat on the panel AND increases the diversity represented by the panel overall.  We readily accept that on smaller panels, this may be less achievable on some occasions.  We are more focused on diversity of panellists and speakers in the aggregate.
We advocate for and with our sponsors to be earnest and proactive on their own DEI-related initiatives. This in part relates to point 5, above, in regard to representation on panel discussions.  It also relates to providing sponsorship opportunities specifically related to supporting diversity and inclusion-related initiatives. The sponsorship of scholarships (see point 10) is a prime example.
We monitor the composition of our speaker pool and conference attendees. We are committed to exploring the myriad factors behind the apparent underrepresentation of women and causal issues; examining which of those we can influence to achieve positive change. This is currently only applied to gender and geographics. Some of the other protected classes or diversity ‘dimensions’ are less apparent and either less measurable or less appropriate to monitor.
We determine and track diversity amongst speakers, to ensure diversity metrics are earnestly considered. Apparent deficits are addressed by event committees.  Though this does occur, given that event schedules are largely composed from the abstracts submitted on a volunteer basis, responsibility for some level of representation rests also with those individuals in industry to respond to the call for abstracts in the first instance.
We have established BILT Academy; the purpose of which is to provide students and educators the opportunity to discover the current state-of-the-art practices and workflows. We aim to inspire the next generation of practitioners and foster ongoing improvements in our industry. This absolutely is done with consideration for those who may not have previously considered a career in our industry. To the extent that helping younger people see what our industry IS and CAN BE (in contrast to their perceptions), we advocate our industry as welcoming for all, and that it presents a wide range of career opportunities for a wide range of people.
Our committee members are charged with serving as exemplars in being especially welcoming of new faces at our events. While the close relationships formed between regular attendees is something we value, it can also yield cliquey behaviour, whereby newcomers may lack confidence in full participation.  We advocate explicitly for welcoming new(er) attendees (subtly recognised by their lanyard colour), partly to combat natural tendencies towards formation of cliques, and to reinforce that all are welcome.
We have established scholarships for those who either work part-time or are not working. This program avails opportunities that may not be forthcoming otherwise.  Full-time and high-achieving staff are more likely to be sponsored to attend by an employer, based on appetite to invest in professional development.  Candidates can be of any gender but we expect this will tend to favour women over men as they may comprise a larger portion of the part-time work force. We also make these scholarships the subject of corporate sponsorship, whereby sponsoring companies can demonstrate their own commitment to diversity initiatives.
We specifically consider partners and families among our conference attendees.

 

We host select social functions with consideration of partners and/or children. Activities are also selected on this basis (e.g. entertainment, post-event walking tours or places of interest) that may be of interest to families rather than just one parent.
We ensure physical accessibility is afforded to all people. We provide step-free building access, stage access ramps, wheelchair seating, lift access, hearing loops as well as guide dogs and other registered assistance dogs being welcome in all areas.

 

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