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Pushing the Limits: The Need for a Behavioural Approach to Equality in Civil Engineering

Chrissi Ruth McCarthy, Derek S Thomson, Sarah H Barnard, Andrew R J Dainty


Diversity within civil engineering has been limited by the sector’s failure to recruit and retain minorities. A contributing factor to this disproportionate turnover of out-group members is hostile and discriminatory treatment from peers and managers. When evaluated critically, equality approaches intended to reduce discrimination within organisations have been found to have either no impact, or even a negative impact. It is posited that employee perceptions of organisational fairness influence employee attitudes towards equality approaches and must be considered before undertaking further work in this area. Regression analysis is used to evaluate survey data from 700 employees of large civil engineering main contractor organisations (MCOs) in order to determine if a relationship between employee perceptions of organisational fairness and attitudes towards equality approaches exists. The analysis found a significant correlation between the two variables. Although causality cannot be established from this research alone, the findings suggest that perceptions of fairness may shape employee responses to equality approaches, which in turn may impact on their behaviour towards minority group members. These findings imply that failure to implement such a behavioural approach to issues of equality—one that considers the organisational perceptions of employees—may limit diversity within organisations.


Engineering; construction; equality; fairness heuristic theory; critical diversity studies

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