Nurturing Social Sustainability Within our Future Workforces Conference

Pradhananga, P, Elzomor, M. (2022). Nurturing Social Sustainability Within our Future Workforces .

cited authors

  • Pradhananga, P; Elzomor, M


  • Sustainability revolves around three pillars of the triple bottom line: social, economic, and environmental. However, social sustainability is seldom prioritized in the construction industry. In construction education, the curriculums tend to focus on disseminating the fundamentals of the only two pillars, i.e., Economic and Environmental, thereby indicating that social sustainability is the weakest pillar. In the era of globalization and diversity, engineering professionals are increasingly grappling with communication styles due to generational and intercultural differences, biases in the workforce, and conflicts due to overlapping cultures that directly impact social sustainability. This pilot project aims to highlight the factors that create marginalization in the construction industry and recommend pedagogical solutions in construction education across the U.S. to address this marginalization directly. To achieve this objective, the study implemented workshop and associated activities in construction management (CM) classes about key components of social sustainability that includes effective interpersonal and group communication, with emphasis on how systemic racism makes its way into these processes as well as the role of culture and bias in communication. At the beginning of the class, 75 students participated in a pre-survey to record their pre-established knowledge about unconscious biases and the role of culture in communication. Then, during the training, students were introduced to topics such as: (1) key concepts of race, culture, and ethnicity; (2) identify differences between diversity, inclusion, and equity; (3) concepts of unconscious biases and their impact on people; and (4) concepts of microaggression. After the training, all the students who participated in the training completed the post-course survey as well. The pre-survey results indicated that more than 50 percent of students are not familiar with the concepts of unconscious biases. The results of the McNemar test indicated that guided training related to unconscious biases significantly improves students' understanding of systemic racism and ways to address social sustainability issues, particularly in the construction discipline. The findings of the study would be valuable for increasing awareness of implicit bias and enhancing the interpersonal skills of the future STEM workforce.

publication date

  • August 23, 2022