Addressing Labor Shortages Through DEI: Overheard in the Big Room  

DEI construction

Construction is facing a labor shortage – and it has been for a while. The statistics paint a discouraging picture, with an 8% drop in the number of construction workers aged 25-54 over the last decade. Moreover, one in five workers is over the age of 55, when the traditional age of retirement in the industry is 61. 

Overall, we’re looking at a total shortage of about 650,000 workers for 2022, and that’s assuming hiring otherwise continues apace. 

According to a recent survey, “Ninety-three percent of respondents say they have open positions that they’re trying to fill and 91% (up slightly from 90% in 2021) indicate they are struggling to fill at least some of these roles.” Nowhere is this truer than in craft roles, which comprise the majority of workforce employment. 

This is most likely not new news to you. What you may not know is that we’ve got a secret weapon for helping to mitigate the labor shortage and improve productivity overall.  

DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) programs and practices help build a stronger and more resilient workforce to weather the labor shortage.  

So how are firms making this a reality, exactly? We asked real professionals in the Big Room to share their thoughts.  

The Big Room: Construction’s Water Cooler 

If you’re not familiar with the Big Room, it’s an online community designed for you to collaborate, ideate and grow with other construction professionals within the Autodesk Construction Cloud environment. It is also a place for you to enhance your industry knowledge, converse with Autodesk enthusiasts around the world, and get recognized for the work you do, day in and day out. 

There are no special requirements for joining the conversation, either. Whether you are new to Autodesk or are a seasoned veteran, you all have a voice in the Big Room. If you’d like, you can learn more here. 

That said, our goal is to impart the most important takeaways from industry conversations, whether you’re a member or not. Thus was born Overheard in the Big Room, a regular content series in which we share hot takes from the Big Room community – such as where BIM is going and what the Metaverse will mean for construction. 

For this roundup, we wanted to know all about how building professionals see DEI shaping the future. Let’s see what they had to say. 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Definition According to the Pros 

We asked Big Room members how they understood DEI, what they thought its benefits were, and where they believed it would take us. Here are a few of their thoughts. 

Why Is DEI Important in Construction? 

Diversity, equity and inclusion are built on the same core belief: that we need to include everyone’s voice if we want to make the most of their presence at a specific company and in the world at large. This is an endeavor that many companies and industries have put off for too long, to their detriment. Indeed, statistics show that diversity is positively correlated with performance, profits and productivity. According to Big Room members, there are plenty of others as well. 

“Innovative ideas come from people from all walks of life. Without a bit – heck, maybe a lot – of diversity, equality and inclusion in the AEC industry, we’d be farther off our collective goals than where we are today. And we’re not even there yet.” 

 a construction executive 

“The critical role that diversity and inclusion play in any workplace is undoubtedly acknowledged by everyone. For an industry like construction, which is at the cusp of a paradigm shift, the importance can never be underscored enough. The pace of conscious adoption across the board needs to hasten for sure.” 

 a construction director 

“Diversity improves employee productivity, motivates them and increases satisfaction as well.” 

– Niloufar Monzavi, Intern Architect AIBC at AECOM 

“I truly believe that different cultures working together allow us to see things that were almost impossible to see before.” 

 Eduardo Flores Schoenau, Director/BIM Manager at D'Accoddi BIM Consulting 

“We are stronger, smarter and better because of our collaboration. Drawing from diverse backgrounds, cultures and experiences delivers innovation across our company and better enables us to understand our clients and each other.” 

 a BIM director 

“It never hurts to see things from other people’s perspectives. Innovation doesn’t always come from the most obvious places.” 

 Taylor Beddow, Project Engineer at b2E 

“There are so many things that everyone can bring to the table, and having all individuals at the table will add so much value to teams.” 

 Steve Rollo, National BIM/VDC Manager at Graham Construction & Engineering LP 

How Do You Attract and Retain a Diverse Workforce? 

Unfortunately, wizards still aren’t real (we don’t think), so it’s not possible simply to snap one’s fingers and instantly benefit from a more diverse workplace. Instead, it takes time to cultivate a company profile that includes people of different ethnicities, genders, religions, ages and more – and you have to make people want to sign on. Here are a few ways our Big Room members are doing it. 

“We are committed to ensuring the voices of our people are included, heard and respected, and that AECOM is a safe place where our diverse talent thrives with equitable opportunities to grow and make lasting impacts in the communities in which we live and work.” 


“My organization has a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commitment. This is a document and mindset at the company to drive an equitable workplace. Last year, the company also provided a series of learning opportunities with a diversity and inclusion consultant to educate employees on the topic. Those sessions were recorded as well for anyone to go back to reference. The company is continually working towards creating a better work environment!” 

 Melissa Schulteis, Virtual Construction Lead - Self-perform at Miron Construction Co., Inc. 

“My company actively promotes equity, diversity and inclusion in all our practices and policies. I am part of the EDI Council, which promotes initiatives to foster EDI at the firm.” 

 a digital practice manager 

“We have developed a great DE&I initiative and I am very proud to work for a company that prioritizes people and diversity.” 

 a VDC specialist

What Does DEI Look Like in Practice? 

It’s easy to say that diversity is a good thing, but harder to find creative ways to make people of different backgrounds feel truly seen. Here are a few of our favorite responses regarding how Big Room members are doing just that at work. 

“I think the working atmosphere is the most important part. We host activities after work to gain more teamworking.” 

 Insides sales coordinator  

“Our company has had a large push over the years to increase and expand its I&D. As each employee brings something different to the table, that is what gives our company the fullness that is needed to thrive. There have been many groups added to the list of I&D, and a large part of the success with this is that Corporate Leadership is involved in each group at some level of support. Additionally, each group has a digital platform to post content, they get time to talk about or present what is going on with their team’s involvement in the company or community, and they share in recruiting events for employees to learn more about each group.” 

 Timothy Curry, Software Design Manager at Owens Corning 

“One of the unique perks of being at DPR is that they provide a paid holiday (of the employee’s choice) for all the diverse cultures – be it Diwali, Chinese New Year, Meskel, Ostara and many others. This way, if an employee needs to spend time with their friends and family on an important cultural festival, they can do so without any guilt!” 

 a VDC specialist 

Catch Up on Everything Else Happening in the Big Room 

Never fear: we will continue to share the most interesting conversational highlights from industry professionals in our regular content series, Overheard in the Big Room. However, there are so many amazing conversations happening in the Big Room that never make it to our blog, and we don’t want you to miss out on them. 

Want to avoid that? Be a part of the conversation yourself by joining the Big Room, where you can grow in partnership with other industry professionals as well as Autodesk Construction Cloud. If you’re not already chipping in, we’d love to hear what you have to say, so join today! 

Grace Ellis

As Manager of Content Marketing Strategy at Autodesk and Editor in Chief of the Digital Builder Blog, Grace has nearly 15 years of experience creating world-class content for technology firms. She has been working within the construction technology space for the last 6+ years and is passionate about empowering industry professionals with cutting-edge tools and leading strategies that improve the quality of their jobs and lives.