BE Better: Increasing representation of ethnic minorities in construction with Radiant and Brighter

This series of BE-ST's Accelerate to Zero Podcast is all about equality, diversity and inclusion. Hosted by the Heads of Stakeholder Engagement, Kirsty Duncan and Danielle Miller, this week’s episode is with Co-Founders of Radiant and Brighter – a community interest company promoting diversity through education, inspiration and changing perceptions, Pheona and Micheal Matovu.

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This episode explores the challenges of and approaches to improving the experiences of ethnic minorities working within the built environment. Pheona and Micheal share their firsthand experiences of and insights into addressing these challenges and working with businesses in the built environment to improve the representation and experience of ethnic minorities.


What does Radiant and Brighter do?


Pheona and Micheal founded Radiant and Brighter ten years ago after facing unemployment themselves because of the lack of support to help migrant communities into employment in the UK. Initially, the company’s focus was on providing this support, but after a short while, the pair realised that there was a systemic issue within company cultures that was disadvantaging employees from ethnic minority backgrounds.


Radiant and Brighter evolved into a company that focuses on systemic change and improving workplace cultures by training organisations and individuals to provide support to colleagues and employees from ethnic minority backgrounds, and to recognise and address issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.


Pheona says, “Our work now sits around anti-racism practice, addressing issues at the cultural, structural, institutional, and individual levels."

The pace of progress


Pheona and Micheal share that when they started Radiant and Brighter, there was much more fear and discomfort amongst industry professionals with discussing ethnicity and race. Although, people are more willing to acknowledge racism within the construction industry, progress in achieving meaningful, embedded diversity and inclusion is slow.


Nevertheless, in their experience there is a growing recognition and willingness among organisations to at least appear proactive, even if progress is gradual.


Working with Balfour Beatty


In its work with the construction industry, Radiant and Brighter have worked successfully with Balfour Beatty and its senior leadership team who have taken part in Radiant and Brighter’s training programmes. These sessions focused on creating a safe space for senior leaders to engage in uncomfortable conversations about racism.


The programme aimed to influence systemic change by making changes to the way those at the top of the organisation think in the hope that this will trickle down into the wider organisation and foster an environment where individuals can bring their whole selves to work.


The DIveIN Conference


In partnership with BE-ST, Radiant and Brighter will be delivering the DIveIN conference taking place in Glasgow on the 29th of February. The conference will provide the opportunity for Radiant and Brighter to share insights into EDI challenges in the built environment and to provide support to address these.


If you are interested in starting your organisation’s EDI journey in a safe and supportive environment sign up for a free ticket here.


This episode with Pheona and Micheal finishes with a discussion on the importance of partnerships like the one between Radiant and Brighter and BE-ST. Pheona and Micheal express their hope for a future construction industry where there is increased representation of ethnic minorities at all levels in the industry and a workforce that truly reflects the diversity of the population. 


We want to create an environment where diversity of ethnicity flourishes structurally and culturally, but also where people have the capability and capacity to represent themselves as role models, as organisations and as individuals. Pheona Matovu
Co-Founder, Radiant and Brighter