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News & opinion

19 JUN 2020

How can the industry be more inclusive of LGBTQ+ people?

It’s important to create an inclusive culture to attract the best people whatever their orientation. Millennials are drawn to diversity-friendly companies, even if they’re not LGBT themselves, because it says a lot about how companies look after their staff. So it’s good business practice and has multiple benefits.

A key consideration when creating an inclusive culture is language. There needs to be zero tolerance to language that could be offensive, and staff should be encouraged to speak out if they hear anything inappropriate. It can be helpful to invite someone in to talk to staff about the words and phrases that are acceptable and those that aren’t, and to clarify modern terminology, such as why “transitioning” should be used rather than “sex change”, and the meanings of transgender, transman and transwoman. Building Equality, for the construction industry, and Freehold, for the property sector, are two organisations that can help with this. 

The LGBTQ+ experience in the construction industry

  • 54% of LGBT construction workers feel uncomfortable being open about their sexuality on site (Construction News, 2018)
  • Just 7% of LGBT employees would recommend construction as a “great place to work” (Construction News, 2018)

Connecting with relevant networking and industry organisations that host discussions and social gatherings is another positive step. Again, groups such as Building Equality, Freehold and LGBT+ in FM hold events throughout the year, which colleagues can be encouraged to attend. “Allies” – staff who aren’t LGBT but support those who are, can be identified through wearing rainbow lanyards. If an LGBT person walks into an office full of rainbows they know it’s a safe place. And joining Pride marches as a company sends a clear signal. It’s also important to work with supply chains to show your support for diversity across the industry.

Making sure there are no barriers to career progression or selection for projects is essential in an inclusive culture. Ensure all processes are fair and transparent, and that jobs and secondments are advertised to all staff. One issue to be aware of with international projects is the need to protect LGBT staff in countries where they could be at risk. Always provide the opportunity to turn down the position, but if they accept then ensure their protection. If they decide against the role, offer them other opportunities to compensate.

There is plenty of research to show that staff are up to 30% more productive if they can be themselves at work, so the business benefits of creating an inclusive culture are beyond doubt.

  • Sharon Slinger FRICS has worked in the construction and facilities management industries for 20 years as a quantity surveyor. In 2017 she set up Constructing Rainbows, providing strategic advice and training on improving company performance while offering a high-level review of equality, diversity and inclusion strategies.