News Brief

Racism, Sexism Rampant in Built Environment Workplaces

Seventy-two percent of Blacks and African Americans, and 66% of women, say they’ve experienced discrimination at work.

Amid growing reports of nooses found on construction sites, new stats back up anecdotal reports that discrimination based on race and gender pervades workplaces associated with the built environment.

According to a survey commissioned by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), 72% percent of Black and African-American respondents reported experiencing race-based discrimination at work. Sixty-six percent of female respondents said they’d been discriminated against based on gender. And women and people of color overall felt “they have to work harder than others to be valued,” according to a NIBS report.

A roundtable that included representatives from The American Institute of Architects, the International Living Future Institute, ASHRAE, and several other organizations met in July 2021 to respond to the survey results. The roundtable released a list of best practices for promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace.

Best practices include items like diversity, equity, and inclusion staff training; updated codes of ethics; steps to reduce language barriers; and identifying potential board members who would expand “diversity, depth, and representation.”

NIBS has committed to fulfill its mission by remaining a convener for the industry on the topic of social equity. The Whole Building Design Guide, managed by NIBS, could become a resource for promoting social equity best practices as well.

More on social equity

Centering Equity: The Quest for Justice in Green Building

Re-Forming the Building Industry: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Equity in Design and Construction: Seven Case Studies

For more information:

National Institute of Building Sciences

Originally published September 20, 2021 Reviewed October 4, 2021

Melton, P. (2021, October 4). Racism, Sexism Rampant in Built Environment Workplaces. Retrieved from

Add new comment

To post a comment, you need to register for a BuildingGreen Basic membership (free) or login to your existing profile.


October 25, 2021 - 4:50 pm

The survey numbers are dramatic and alarming. Given this, more information is needed to understand what we are facing. Unfortunately the NIBS report is short on details of their survey methodology. Do you have more detail on this?

It's commonplace for individuals to feel undervalued in the workplace. Including non-BIPOC and male folks, who out there hasn't been unfairly treated in the workplace? What evidence did the survey gather for race- and gender-based discrimination, separating that from confounding factors that could affect any individual regardless of ethnicity or gender? We need to know how overt the discrimination is, in order to better target remedies.

October 26, 2021 - 3:47 am

Feeling you've been discriminated against doesn't mean you have been.

August 22, 2023 - 12:30 pm

When I first started to feel like a colleague was trying to undermine me, cut me down and push me aside, I doubted myself, as many people do. I couldn't beleive it was happening and really questioned myself, wondering if I was overreacting or being too sensitive.  After about a year of this consistent behaviour, I noticed that it was only aimed toward females and in private. In discussions with others, a lot of reading and consideration, I felt confident it was discrimination. The person I accused had been investigated before, although I didn't know that at the time, so he knew how to do it under the radar and in private while being a charmer and team player in front of the bosses and others who he felt couldn't touch him. Please give people the benefit of the doubt when deciding if discrimination has actually occurred or not. You are likely not seeing and hearing everything that they are experiencing.