“They call it banter.” “It’s harmless.”
“They don’t mean anything by it.” “Just a laugh.”
It’s easy to think that some sectors are more prone to this than others. The construction industry has long been associated with racism, homophobia, and misogyny. It’s perceived as a tough environment where you need a thick skin. If you’ve ever done manual labour on a building site it’s easy to see where these perceptions come from.
A 2015 survey suggested that 85% of LGBT+ workers in the sector had experienced homophobia. Comments from the survey include:
“The industry as a whole scares me…despite efforts for equal rights in the workplace, discrimination is fairly rife. I love what I do and it’s a shame to feel threatened or at risk of persecution for being what I am.”
“Homophobic language is endemic, and used almost on a daily basis.”
“If I were completely open with my orientation, my chances for a promotion would have been strongly hindered.”
But now the sector is trying to tackle such homophobia.
Constructing Equality is a company working with employers to recruit and retain LGBT+ talent. They recognise the need and benefit of a diverse workforce. The sector was also well represented at Manchester Pride with workers from different professional backgrounds joining the event.
For those in the workplace, the LGBT Construction & Infrastructure Network provides support for individuals. This includes peer-to-peer mentoring and safe spaces, allowing LGBT staff to learn from and support each other.
The diversity jobs specialist VERCIDA only promote vacancies where there is a full (not tacit) commitment to equality. The jobs advertised, across all sectors, are a good indicator that an employer has embraced the need for real equality throughout the organisation.
There are a lot of positive LGBT+ stories coming from the industry and with increasing levels of support and openness, it should be a more supportive environment than before. Even if you aren’t out you should still feel comfortable in your workplace. Of course, there’s always work to be done, but it looks like the construction sector is beginning to build careers genuinely for everyone.