Survey Says: DE&I in the A/E/C Industry

Survey Says

Today’s world has highlighted the need for our firms to consider how societal issues affect our most valuable assets – our people. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are more important than ever as we work to ensure our organizations are places where every individual is seen, heard, and celebrated for their unique strengths, values, and perspectives.

As A/E/C professionals, we know that our industry has a long way to go when it comes to DE&I. A quick Google search generates numerous articles and data that reveal disparities and underrepresentation of women, minorities, and neurodiverse and disabled individuals employed in A/E/C professions.

Throughout December, SMPS Colorado conducted a survey to gauge how members and A/E/C professionals rated their firms’ commitment to DE&I programs and initiatives.


Of the 21 respondents, nearly 82% indicated that DE&I was a stated value and/or priority area in their firm, 14% indicated that it wasn’t, and 5% weren’t sure.

Nearly 38% indicated that their firm had a formal DE&I program in place, but 48% said they didn’t, and 14% weren’t sure.

When asked if their firm readily made information available or communicated to employees about DE&I topics, commitments, and accountability; 14% strongly agreed, 33% agreed, 19% somewhat agreed, 10% neither agreed nor disagreed, 10% somewhat disagreed, and 14% disagreed.

All respondents indicated that employees at their firm demonstrated a commitment to creating an inclusive environment with 38% answering strongly agree, 48% answering agree, and 14% answering somewhat agree.

When asked if they felt that a lack of diversity was a barrier to their firm’s growth, 19% strongly disagreed with this statement, 33% disagreed, and 10% somewhat disagreed. Only 5% strongly agreed with this statement, 14% agreed, 10% somewhat agreed, and 5% neither agreed nor disagreed.

As far as specific programs/efforts already in place, the percentages designated by the 21 respondents were: 

  • Recruit diverse candidates – 85%
  • Develop a pipeline of diverse leaders – 52%
  • Provide targeted development opportunities for diverse employees – 33%
  • Demonstrate inclusive and equitable decision-making across all people decisions (performance, compensation, accommodations, talent management) – 57%
  • Drive social inclusion efforts targeted at diverse populations – 57%

5% of respondents’ answers indicated that they were not aware of any programs in place.

The percentages of respondents indicating their firm offered training programs in the following areas were:

  • Non-discrimination and regulatory compliance – 62%
  • Embracing differences in the workplace – 43%
  • Overcoming unconscious bias – 33%
  • Teaching leaders how to manage diverse populations and lead inclusively – 33%
  • Embedding inclusion practices and behaviors in service offerings – 29%

10% of respondents’ answers indicated that they were not aware of any training programs in place, and 19% indicated that none of the training topics listed above were in place at their firm.


“We may not have hardcopy policies in place, but it is a Marketing Team Goal for 2023. I am looking forward to learning from SMPS and colleagues who do have DE&I programs in place and how we can share our own vision of work.”

“We demonstrate our commitment internally as well as making it a priority in our project work even when it isn’t part of the client’s scope of work.”

“We host quarterly company-wide conversations around DE&I, and team member actions and commitment towards DE&I initiatives are part of our performance evaluations. While no one is forced to embrace DE&I we are all aware of its importance during special events, company town halls, and in our internal communication. Our leadership team embraces DE&I so our employees see and feel the support from the top.”

“Even the good-intentioned companies are still lagging in promoting and elevating the roles of underrepresented individuals. The leadership in several companies still looks the same – middle-aged white men.  Occasionally, there are white women in financial/legal/HR/marketing roles but nothing that is driving individuals to feel a real change is happening.”

Key Takeaway:

These results demonstrate that an awareness of and commitment to DE&I is prevalent among SMPS CO and A/E/C industry respondents, but that everyone is at a different place when it comes to their path toward building a diverse workplace and succeeding in key dimensions of successful DE&I programming.

Helpful Tips 

Here are some helpful tips that can help you and your firm identify your strengths and areas for enhancement and help you move from awareness to action:

Educate yourself – Listen to those who are unlike you. Attend diversity and inclusion trainings. Support minority-owned businesses. Address your own implicit biases and hold yourself accountable. Treat others the way they want to be treated. We can all do better.

Enlist leadership support – Vocal and frequent leadership support for DE&I sets a ‘tone from the top’ that is critical for the success of DE&I initiatives.

Communicate, communicate, communicate – When it comes to DEI strategy, business leader efforts and employee perception can often be misaligned. Communicate regularly about DE&I as part of broader discussions about business priorities and results and hold leaders accountable for results! Report on metrics, goals, and timelines, so every employee is aware of the efforts taking place!

Listen and ask for feedback – Whether you’re just starting your DE&I journey or refining it, discovering employee perspectives, opinions, and ambitions is crucial. This helps to identify common themes and determine which areas can be easily addressed and those that require deeper structural change. 

If your budget allows partner with a third party – Devising a holistic and successful DE&I program can be daunting. A third-party consultant can offer an objective lens and a strategic viewpoint while helping firms to address their barriers, assess and analyze culture, pinpoint growth opportunities, and employ tactics to advance justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Accessibility should be part of the DE&I equation – Even in this moment of inclusiveness, people with disabilities are being left behind. Disability inclusion means understanding the relationship between the way people function and how they participate in society and making sure everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities and desires. Are your workplaces accessible, accommodating, and welcoming to the physical and emotional needs of disabled individuals? 

Allow for grace – Issues surrounding DE&I are constantly changing - the language, best practices, and issues – which means mistakes are inevitable. We’re on a learning journey, it’s important to meet people where they are.

DE&I across the workplace is more than checking off a box. It’s about being intentional and willing to put in the work to reshape who your firm is and what it stands for so that everyone has a chance to thrive.

Share this post: