Putting the Pride into the Construction Industry
We’ve said it before and we’re going to say it again! The 21st Century construction industry here in the UK needs to be more inclusive in order to attract enough young recruits. More than two years ago we reported on a Stonewall conference titled building an Inclusive Environment, in which senior figures in construction discussed problems faced by lesbian, gay and transgender employees in our sector. At that time it was revealed that a worrying 80% of gay men and women in some parts of our industry had experienced homophobic comments in work. Around the same time, a separate initiative was launched by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) to promote inclusivity in the workplace, backed by the Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) Toolkit which contained training e-modules for use by team managers and employers.
This month’s Pride Parade in London was joined by a group of more than 500 construction workers waving their rainbow flags with industry leaders attending to support the march. This represents great progress for the construction industry and the progress it’s making towards inclusivity but, sadly, there is still a long way to go, according to Construction News (CN). CN is one of the construction sector’s leading news outlets and it’s been disclosed that the publication has been criticised by some for covering issues such as homophobia. Indeed, some subscribers have even cancelled their subscriptions because CN reports on these issues.
When CN published its latest LGBT+ survey in January of this year it revealed that 54% of LGBT+ respondents did not feel comfortable being open about their sexuality or gender on site, with around 28% having experienced an offensive or inappropriate comment about their gender or sexuality in the workplace over the past year. Compared with the 2015 survey, that does represent a massive improvement, but shows that there is still work to be done to ensure that the construction industry is welcoming to all recruits.
The only way to improve the situation is with open discourse and the sharing of best practice when it comes to supporting LGBT+ in our sector. As well as attracting more LGBT+ workers into our industry, this is also likely to attract more women into a career in construction too. Supporting minority groups so that they feel they have a voice is a powerful way of stamping out homophobia. With industry leaders such as the CEO of a major UK contractor joining the Pride march, walking behind drag queens dressed in bikinis in the centre of London, which would have seemed shocking just a few years ago, the leaders in our sector are setting an example that we would all do well to follow.
Any good construction worker is a worker who takes pride in his work. Let’s also take pride in making the construction industry more inclusive to minorities and put the real Pride into construction by showing that our sector welcomes all workers, no matter what they sexuality, their gender, their colour or their creed. Let’s raise a Pride rainbow over construction in the future and welcome everybody.