Black History Month shines an important spotlight on black representation within the workplace and this month we have seen some strong representations, some key examples of important steps forward and pioneers breaking ground. However in balance we also see stark reminders of why we can’t be complacent. Just last week, the Independent published alarming insight in research which suggests that ‘42% of black employees have resigned from their job due to a lack of workplace diversity and inclusion’. In 2020, a government report looking at employment by sector listed only 4% of people in construction as black.
This month we made a promise to celebrate our black peers and colleagues from across the built environment, sharing their experiences, insights and perspectives. We’re kicking this off by being in conversations with Nyasha Gazi.
- Can you please provide your job title & a brief role description?
I’m a Project Planner. In a nutshell, my role is breaking down our scope of work across time and monitoring that on a resourced programme to ensure we are on track to finish the project on time, on budget, and within scope.
- Can you tell us about your journey to reach your current position?
Following completion of a Masters in Construction Management at Birmingham University, I accepted a grad role at Nestle as a Safety Health & Environmental Advisor starting on a project to construct a new Freeze Dried coffee factory in Tutbury & Hatton before moving to a factory in Carlisle. I realised I enjoyed the project more than working in the factory so after 2.5yrs with Nestle I decided to return to Construction and I applied for a graduate program with Laing O’Rourke. I was on the graduate program for 2.5yrs then worked my way up from Assistant Planner to Planner. I was with Laing O’Rourke for just under 6 years before I accepted a Project Planner role with Lendlease. I have worked on Northern Line Extension, HS2 Enabling Works, HS2 M42, and A446 bridge structures and I’m currently on Glen Parva new prison build.
- What were the main 3 challenges that you faced in your career?
I suppose being both a woman and a person of colour, at times it feels as if you’re battling various microaggressions, and you just don’t know which battle to fight. Also, being in a male-dominated industry, where a lot of management is much older, I commonly experienced imposter syndrome where I felt I didn’t belong in a meeting or a project. Another challenge is that we generally move about after each project, so with the constant team changes, it can be difficult to build lasting work relationships.
- Do you see changes in representation in the industry, positive or negative?
I have seen some changes from when I began my career I’m 2013 to now. Back then, I used to inspect cabins and it was quite surprising to me how acceptable it was to have posters of nude models plastered around cabins. It is very common to see more women on the work face so this is probably why this has changed. We have done a lot in that space; however, I feel that one thing that has not changed is the ethnic diversity on the boards. There are many people of colour in low-level positions, not sure why that rarely translates to leadership team positions.
- Do you have any advice for someone with a similar career goal?
Work hard in your role and let your knowledge build your reputation. As long as you’re good at what you do, you’ll be fine. And ask for help if you need it. No one will fault you for asking questions, if they do, ask someone else because clearly, they’re not worth learning from!
- As part of the Black Lives Matter UK #ProudToBe campaign, can you share something you are proud of?
I’m proud to be a Trustee of K.U.K Alliance, a charity I started with some friends. We all understand that we’re very privileged in life, so we wanted to pay it forward and help other young people know that through education and being empowered, they can forge a bright future for themselves. So, I’m proud to say since 2018, our charity has even raised funds and sponsored children in Zimbabwe to go to school, helping the girls tackle period poverty and empowering youth through a mentoring program. Visit our website or social media to see more!
 Almost half of Black employees have left job due to lack of diversity, research suggests | The Independent
 Employment by sector – GOV.UK Ethnicity facts and figures (ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk)