By Luke Carothers
Sadaf Parvaiz is the first Diversity and Inclusion Officer at GHD. With 10,000 employees at 200 offices located worldwide, Parvaiz’s role has not only a massive impact within the firm, but also the AEC industry in the larger scope. This impact is reflected in Parvaiz’s recent naming as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network. In this new role as GHD’s first Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Parvaiz has been tasked with championing gender equality, cultural diversity, adapting to the needs of generational workers, and making flexible and adaptable working arrangements for workers around the world.
Parvaiz joined GHD in March of 2021 when leadership decided to create the new position. Now, headed by Sadaf Parvaiz, GHD employs a team of 3 other individuals dedicated to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). Although this is a newly created position within GHD, Parvaiz has been working in the D&I field for 15 years, working previously in the Professional Services Industry for EY. Parvaiz was drawn to the AEC industry because of the need to focus on D&I within the STEM fields, and she views GHD’s willingness to put forth resources as an “important first step” towards “taking a step forward” and meeting the challenges at hand.
There are certainly challenges to be met in terms of improving representation as a means of furthering the goals of diversity and inclusion. As of 2020, women represented 47 percent of the nation’s workforce. Despite this, women comprise only 10.9 percent of the construction workforce and 27 percent in the architecture and engineering workforces respectively. Parvaiz views her new role as a way to not only improve representation within GHD, but to improve the overall state of representation in the AEC industry.
The key to meeting the challenges of under-representation and others facing D&I, according to Parvaiz, is to focus on the short term while keeping the long term very close in mind. Some of the first tasks for Parvaiz in furthering the goals of D&I were internal. These first steps consisted of examining how GHD operates internally and determining how those processes can be made more equitable. According to Parvaiz, this included evaluating these processes for inherent biases that “prevent those in the industry from progressing.” Many of these short term goals are aimed at improving D&I for those who are already in the industry. On the other hand, Parvaiz believes that the long term goals are more focused on bringing people into the AEC industry. This long term approach to D&I in the AEC industry is focused on how to get more diverse populations interested in a career in these fields. Parvaiz believes that, by creating programs and initiatives as well as other measures to generate interest in these fields amongst diverse populations, the AEC industry will be able to hire and advance more diverse candidates.
For Parvaiz, the key to finding a balance between the long and short term goals of D&I will lead to the most equitable future for the AEC industry. On one hand, she believes that we must continue focusing on evaluating our current processes for bias so that minority populations who are already in the field can fully advance in their careers. On the other hand, Parvaiz also believes that we must dedicate focus towards inspiring the next generation of AEC workers from minority populations. By working towards both goals simultaneously, minorities within the industry can fully advance in their careers while also paving the way for a new generation of candidates from more diverse hiring pools.
Luke Carothers is the Editor for Civil + Structural Engineer Media. If you want us to cover your project or want to feature your own article, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.