My real wake-up call to racial inequality and the lack of diversity in my industry occurred on the very first day I opened the Clayco office in St. Louis. It was in a disadvantaged part of town and an 11-year-old African-American boy approached me asking for a job. When I told him that he should be in school, he replied that he needed to be taking care of his family, which not only made me sharply aware of the reality of inequality, but also sparked my lifelong engagement with these issues through Clayco and my personal efforts.
As that young man, Todd, grew up in our home and within the industry, we were confronted time and again with the challenges of access to education and the job market for women and people of color. We’ve been working on this from the beginning of Clayco, focusing our efforts on outreach into the community through various events and the creation of the Construction Career Development Initiative (CCDI) which aims to create opportunities for minorities in the construction industry through mentorship and training, real-world experience, scholarships, and career development. The drive for diversity and inclusion in the workforce begins with company leadership, where we prioritize making sure that minority voices are heard through our company town halls and demonstrating the benefits of diversity in terms of real business objectives. Change in our industry begins with our responsibility to step into our communities and reach out to youngsters who may not otherwise have exposure to engineering, architecture, and construction.
Despite all our efforts, there is still much work to be done. I am, however, optimistic. We are in a moment in history where there is increasing awareness and even greater receptivity to the challenges that result from systemic racism and inequality. Together—with honest conversations and initiatives dedicated to anti-racism, diversity, and inclusion—we can be part of the solution.