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A high-profile trade show for construction professionals has issued a new set of diversity standards for exhibitors after one firm used Las Vegas-style showgirls to promote its products last year.

UK Construction Week, which attracts more than 670 exhibitors each year, will now encourage companies to “consider the mix of staff you have on the stand (gender, age, ethnicity etc)”.

“Do they represent the diversity of your company, and if not, be prepared to explain why not,” it said. Standards also cover issues such as clothing worn by promotional staff and the activities on stands.

The show faced criticism last year after one company’s stand featured showgirls as a way of selling roofing products, leading to complaints from attendees.

The new guidelines tell companies to consider whether they have asked staff to “do something that could be deemed to objectify them as men or women”. Any companies found doing this could find their stand closed, the organisation said.

Nathan Garnett, director of UK Construction Week, said: “We got it wrong last year, and faced criticism on social media. So we’re still learning too.”

Criticism of sexism at business and sporting events has grown following the President’s Club scandal and the decision of Formula One bosses to stop using so-called ‘grid girls’ for promotional tasks.

Mr Garnett added: “No-one can deny that the construction sector has more work to do in this area than most. The business case is clear, the moral case undeniable, so now is the time.”

UK Construction Week said it started to discuss diversity standards more than two years ago, and had set up a steering committee to ensure people from all backgrounds were being represented at its show.

Aaron Reid, a senior director at Balfour Beatty who sat on the committee, said the change showed “a vital shift change in accelerating cultural transformation in the industry”.

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