Levelling the playing field for young Londoners

30th September 2021
  • British Property Federation, Berkeley Group, the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations, JLL and many others lend their voice to help young Londoners from underrepresented communities enter and flourish in industry
  • Racism is prevalent. Estates Gazette annual race report shows 84% of ethnic minority respondents feel racism is an issue in the sector and close to 75% had experienced racism
  • Research has highlighted that senior executives in industry are less representative in terms of education and socio-economic background compared to Members of Parliament, FTSE 350 chairs and BBC executives[1]
  • A recent survey report found that less than one third of young people consider a career in the built environment [2]


Major names from the Built Environment are today joining forces with independent social mobility charity, the Mayor’s Fund for London, in a campaign targeted at making the industry more inclusive, especially for young people from lower socio-economic and Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds.

At a time when London’s job market is experiencing a deeper crisis than rest of UK, the ‘Firm Foundations’ campaign aims to create instant impact in its first year by signing up 100 companies to take new action whilst also working with business leaders to shape an industry-wide programme for the longer term. The campaign will be officially launched with a virtual event on 14 October with involvement from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, young people and industry leaders.

Organisations backing the ‘Firm Foundations’ campaign so far include the British Property Federation, Berkeley Group, Camargue, Changing the Face of Property, the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations, GIA Surveyors, JLL, Jomas Associates, Morris+ Company,  Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing, Oxford Properties, Stephen George + Partners and Turley.

 Mayor’s Fund for London CEO, Kirsty McHugh said: “In a post pandemic landscape, all employers need to step up to help young Londoners get that first foot in the door. I am delighted that so many players in the built environment sector want to work together to diversify their workforce.”

Geeta Nanda, CEO of Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing and chair of London’s G15 group, said: “If we are serious about breaking the glass ceiling that holds people back, we must go beyond box-ticking exercises to address this. The G15 group of housing associations is really pleased to be founding partners of the Mayor’s Fund for London’s Firm Foundations campaign. This initiative has the potential to transform chances of thousands of young Londoners from diverse socio-economic and multi-ethnic backgrounds, creating a stronger and more inclusive built environment in the process.”


It is a stark reality that the lack of diversity and representation across the Built Environment industry is holding young people back. In architecture, almost 94% of architects are white[3]; only 27% of employees in real estate come from lower socio-economic backgrounds[4] and less than 6% of construction workers are from Black, Asian, or minority ethnic backgrounds[5]. During the pandemic, 31% more Black and minority ethnic workers lost their jobs in comparison to 11% jobs lost among white workers[6].

The recent Race Diversity in Real Estate survey by the Estates Gazette magazine shows that roughly 81.5% of respondents said that property was failing to attract ethnic minorities to the sector, with almost 90% saying property was failing to get Black, Asian or minority ethnic professionals into senior leadership positions.

A core element of the ‘Firm Foundations’ campaign calls for employers to sign up its Diversity Pledge; a series of principles that help to remove barriers for young people, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. By signing up, employers commit to championing the principles and implementing one new action within six months of joining. The Pledge is not prescriptive and allows flexibility, depending on companies’ priorities. Examples commitments so far include a work placement scheme for looked after children; developing metrics to measure social value; supporting the Mayor’s Fund Access Aspiration programme by connecting with secondary schools for careers guidance; and designing a revised recruitment strategy.

The campaign kick-off event on 14 October brings together key movers and shakers from the industry in an online speaker and panel session to call out current issues and to discuss what needs to be done to achieve industry-wide action. Organisations wishing to attend can reserve their place here.

[1] https://www.thebridgegroup.org.uk/news/real-estate

[2] https://insights.morgansindallconstruction.com/story/are-we-gen-z-ready/page/1

[3] Architects Journal 2018

[4] Bridge Group report “Socio-economic diversity in the real estate sector” September 2020

[5] 2018, ONS

[6] 2021, ONS