Clark Construction Group
Building Diversity & Inclusion into the Construction Industry on Behalf of Clark Construction Group
Clark Construction is one of the country’s largest construction companies, and has a long and storied history in San Francisco, working on landmark capital projects including the Chase Center, the Golden State Warriors’ new home in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood. While the construction company makes an effort to hire a diverse team, its subcontractors are often in charge of staffing the construction site with workers, bringing team members from outside of California who might not have the same sensitivity to diverse workforces, creating a racially insensitive work environment.
When a noose appeared on a job site, the construction company sought D&A’s help to manage the crisis. The horrendous gesture was met with hurt, anger, and outrage among internal and external stakeholders. It set off a media firestorm that shone a glaring spotlight on the racial gaps lurking in the construction industry.
A trusted partner of Clark’s, D&A was founded on the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion—making the agency perfectly suited to manage the ensuing crisis and to guide Clark in taking the necessary steps to prevent a repeat occurrence.
Roles and Responsibilities
Diffusing a crisis comes down to three elements: transparency, accountability, and empathy. Managing the media is only part of successfully managing crisis situations—in order for a crisis to truly be resolved, a company must take responsibility for the situation and protocols must be implemented to ensure the inciting incident won’t repeat, and these changes must be communicated clearly to internal staff, contractors, suppliers, and the public.
For this particular crisis, D&A realized that Clark Construction had made an effort to build an inclusive workforce that embraced and celebrated each other’s differences but hadn’t taken the extra step to ensure its subcontractors—particularly, the ones staffing the job sites—were doing the same. To that end, D&A recommended that Clark prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion as core values, and demonstrate these values through action. The action entailed Clark Construction requiring contractors and subcontractors doing business with them to implement unconscious bias training in order to be considered for opportunities. It was a major cultural shift, but one which Clark proved eager and willing to implement.
Not only did D&A develop the unconscious bias training and curriculum, we also secured well-known civil rights leader and protégé of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Amos C. Brown, to facilitate discussion with empathy and experience. He was able to drill down into the “why” around the impact of systemic racism without making people defensive or upset. Subcontractors were so responsive to the unconscious bias training that Clark Construction now includes it in workers’ contracts when new projects occur. This is another example of how we are able to operate at the speed of trust due to the breadth of community relationships we bring to the table.
D&A also made sure the new subcontractor process was communicated both internally to all employees as well as externally to key stakeholders including community activists and the media, allowing Clark Construction to receive praise for being an industry leader willing to effect change throughout the construction industry.
This project was delivered on schedule and on budget. Our efforts were incredibly successful—the noose incident seems like a distant bad memory. Clark Construction is now a leader in promoting diversity and inclusion, hiring people of color, and giving back to marginalized communities. In an industry as white-and male-dominated as construction, they set an unprecedented example, one for other firms to model, thereby increasing opportunities for minorities in a lucrative industry.
“The horrendous gesture was met with hurt, anger, and outrage among internal and external stakeholders. It set off a media firestorm that shone a glaring spotlight on the racial gaps lurking in the construction industry.”