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FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. — The A/E/P and environmental consulting industry remains mostly white and male-dominated due to a set of reasons ranging from archaic hiring practices to fewer minorities seeking careers in the field, The Zweig Letter (TZL) revealed in a report March 21.

According to an online survey of human resources professionals in the architecture, engineering, planning and environmental consulting fields, more than half of respondents described their firm as “not very diverse, with less than one third of employees being minorities.” Only 8.3 percent of participants described their firm as “very diverse,” with more than half of employees being minorities.

“It’s a sore subject that many managers don’t like to talk about because it makes them uncomfortable,” Stephen Hinton, managing director of Hinton Human Capital, told TZL. “It’s not a plot; it’s not a situation where there is insidious, systemic racism or exclusion. It’s a situation with more than one force at work.”

Among those forces is a management-by-numbers mentality that doesn’t balance well with the management of people, Hinton said. Moreover, A/E/P and environmental consulting firms suffer from an unhealthy supply of minority candidates who seek degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics, compiled in 2010, indicates bachelor’s degree completion rates for A/E-related studies were higher among white and Asian students than for students who describe themselves as black, Hispanic or “other.”

Many firms also tend to overlook minority schools producing capable architects and engineers, Hinton said, which is unfortunate, because recruiters can find some “top-notch candidates there.”

“Our hiring managers like to hire from the same sources, same schools, and are reluctant to seek a more diverse candidate pool,” an anonymous TZL survey respondent wrote. “HR is trying to move us in the right direction, but most of the leadership team doesn’t recognize the need. I think we are missing a great opportunity.”

According to the survey, 50 percent of respondents indicated that despite their best efforts, not enough minorities apply with their firms. Eight percent said their area of the country is not very diverse, and they hire mostly locally, while 40 percent responded with “other” reasons why their firm doesn’t employ many minorities.

Stephen Lucy, managing principal for the Dallas office of Jaster-Quintanilla, a minority-owned civil and structural engineering firm, said that the industry “needs to do better.” He added, “Without expanded efforts in this area, our industry will continue to have difficulty in attracting the best and brightest to pursue A/E/C careers and be reflective of our changing demographics.”

 

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