UK Construction Week has released a new guide for exhibitors to ‘promote greater equality, diversity and inclusion’, following criticism of an exhibitor’s employment of women dressed as Vegas showgirls at the 2017 event in October at the NEC.
The event, which comprises nine shows for the construction industry, including Grand Designs Live, is one of several trade exhibitions which has become involved in an ongoing debate on sexism at live events.
The topic hit the headlines when the Financial Times published an investigation into behaviour at the President’s Club fundraising dinner and Formula 1 announced it would be replacing its ‘grid girls’ with ‘grid kids’. The debate also entered the exhibition sphere when several exhibitors at ICE Totally Gaming came under fire for featuring scantily clad women as part of their stands.
The new guide for UK Construction Week, which includes an exhibitor code of conduct, emphasises that stand staff must be wearing clothing ‘appropriate for a business event’.
Commenting on the release of the new code of conduct, Nathan Garnett, director of Media 10’s construction portfolio, said: “We want the show to be lively, fun and engaging, and these measures should not be interpreted as restrictions upon that. Promoting a more diverse and inclusive image of construction is a joyful thing.
“But the fear of getting it wrong is holding the construction industry back from a frank conversation about diversity, equality and inclusion.
“We got it wrong last year, and faced criticism on social media. So we’re still learning too. We have benefitted enormously from the input of many diversity champions and leaders within the construction industry over the last couple of years, and have published the videos from our Diversity in Construction panel discussions so that others can hear their advice as well.
“No one can deny that the construction sector has more work to do in this area than most. The business case is clear, the moral case undeniable, so now is the time. It is for this reason UK Construction Week has made a commitment to change and to promote the benefits of diversity for the advantage of the whole construction sector.
“We have always promoted a very strong and diverse conference platform, but now we’re looking at the exhibition too. I think UK Construction Week can play a pivotal role in highlighting those who are making great strides in balancing out inequality in our industry, to demonstrate best practice and to inspire others. We should use this event as a celebration and an opportunity to challenge ourselves to make that commitment to achieving minimum requirements and demonstrating on-going progression.”
Garnett also spoke to BBC Radio 4 this morning (13 February), pointing out that the negative coverage overshadowed the event’s diverse conference programme. The interview concluded with journalist Mishal Husain asking, “what happens if you get more show girls turning up to the show?”, to which Garnett replied, “they won’t be permitted to come into the show”.