Some Worrying Issues in the Construction Sector

Some Worrying Issues in the Construction Sector

03rd September 2015

The UK’s leading construction industry new source, Construction News set up a survey earlier this year to seek the views of UK contractors and cost consultant employees in order to discover the attitudes within the construction sector towards lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) employees.  This was in a response to a survey conducted last year by CITB (the Construction Industry Training Board) which revealed that sexist and homophobic language is fairly commonplace on building sites in the UK.  Almost half (48%) or workers claimed that they had heard homophobic language in the past year and 13% said that they hear it at least once a week.

Earlier this year, Construction News, in collaboration with sister publications, Architect’s Journal and New Civil Engineer joined Stonewall (the lesbian and gay rights organisation) to explore attitudes towards sexuality, including the issues of homophobia and workplace support.  The anonymous survey was aimed at employees of all genders and sexualities across the construction industry as a whole.  Some of the results are quite disturbing and show that, like many other industries, the construction sector needs to undergo a cultural shift and pay more attention to the issue of inclusion.

Alarmingly, less than half of those took the survey believed that their colleagues would be comfortable working alongside openly gay peers and only 7% of LGB employees would recommend the construction industry as a “great place to work” for other LGB people.  The figure doubles for heterosexual staff who would recommend it to LGB people, but that’s still only 15% of heterosexual respondents.

More than half of the LGB respondents said that homophobia is an issue in the workplace with nearly two thirds claiming to have heard homophobic or offensive comments in the last year.  Although 846% of LGB respondents said that they have heard inappropriate comments, only 68.7% of heterosexual staff who answered the survey had. 

According the Stonewall’s account manager for the built environment sector, Matteo Lissana the figures present a more challenging picture than that of most sectors but he revealed that after speaking with many firms within the construction sector, the figures did not surprise him.  Worryingly, some of the anonymous comments from respondents from both the LGB and heterosexual employees reveal that the construction industry can be a difficult environment for gay, bisexual and transgender workers.

One gay male respondent disclosed that the industry as a whole is largely homophobic and said that he would “love to see a senior executive come out and speak out which could lead the way for others”.  He went on to disclose that he believes that sexual orientation can affect a worker’s career progression.  He went on to say that if he were totally open about his sexual orientation he fears that his chances of promotion would have been hindered. 

It seems that in the construction industry there’s an underlying assumption that everybody must be heterosexual which just can’t be the case nowadays in these more tolerant times.  However, the survey shows some worrying tendencies within the industry and construction will need to address these issues in order to catch up with the modern world in which we live.