LGBTQ+ in the Construction Industry: Creating an Inclusive Workplace
Is considering a career in the construction industry as an LGBTQ+ individual a daunting prospect? Worries about acceptance and inclusivity can be discouraging. However, times have changed, and it is important to talk about how the construction industry is constantly evolving and becoming more diverse.
As part of Pride 2023 we spoke with Stephen Flatt, Products and Services Coordinator at CITB, to understand his experience in the construction industry, and highlight the significance of LGBTQ+ networks in fostering a sense of belonging and promoting diversity across the construction industry.
What advice would you give to LGBTQ+ individuals considering a career in the construction industry?
I think the main thing to remember is that being part of the LGBTQ+ community is more accepted in a lot of spaces than one might think. The immediate response is to worry and fear that we will not be accepted, but this is often not the case. I have collaborated with various people from all diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation and find that these boundaries we put in place in our own minds do not stop us from working successfully with different people. The construction industry now more than ever needs a diverse workforce that is a true representation of the many different people through the country.
Can you share any positive experiences of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community in the construction industry?
I joined CITB in February of 2023. I came from a company where I had worked for nine years and had come out as gay during my time working there. Everyone accepted me and knew my story. Coming to a new place of work and having to do this process again can be daunting. All my team have accepted me and made me feel welcome. When discussing my boyfriend, nobody has an issue, and this made me feel comfortable right off the bat. Overall, I find CITB to be inclusive, and understanding of the varied backgrounds and lifestyles that their staff have.
How has the construction industry become more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community?
I think, like many straight male-dominated spaces, it realises that it needs to diversify and become a true representation of modern society. I am sure there is a long way to go with this, but things are heading in the right direction.
In your opinion, what can construction companies and organisations do to create a more inclusive and accepting workplace culture for LGBTQ+ employees?
The main thing is that employees need to feel accepted. They need to know that their differences will not be held against them, and that people do not see them for their differences but collaborate with them regardless of their preferences or lifestyle. Companies can easily do this simply by having inclusive messaging within their internal communications or having news bulletins that cover the interests of all the workforce. Also, corporations having a sincere involvement in Pride Month, rather than just a pride flag here or there throughout June will make the community of that workforce feel seen and understood.
Also talking to employees and asking what they can do to improve. Asking the questions to the people that matter is the best way for companies to learn and grown and move with the times. Even the most inclusive and up to date companies can fall behind with what is and is not acceptable within a given community, and it is something that is ever evolving and changing.
Why do you think LGBTQ+ networks are so important in the construction industry?
The construction industry can be an intimidating place. I remember as a teenager, doing some work on a construction site as a labourer with one of my friends. I was terrified that one of the older guys on the site would ask me if I was gay or mock me in front of the other bricklayers and labourers. This male, straight dominance will be true on some sites, but equally there will be many sites that simply are not like this. In the weeks I was labouring, nothing negative was ever mentioned to do with my sexuality and this was more an internal struggle for me.
Networks within the construction industry can help people that may have the same worries, whether that be on a site or in a larger company. People will instantly feel more at ease when they know they have like-minded people to help with their struggles and issues.
What ways do LGBTQ+ networks help promote diversity and inclusion in construction?
I think having networks like this helps the people within the network to feel seen and included but also helps other people within the corporation to know the company’s stance on LGBTQ+ and the fact that this is something the company supports and recognises within its workforce. The more visibility and awareness that LGBTQ+ has within the construction industry the better it is for the workforce overall, especially members of the community who may not feel comfortable with their own selves yet.
How do you see LGBTQ+ networks evolving in the future?
I suppose the aim would be eventually to feel they are less needed. Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is not something that should need to be discussed at work, as it is not relevant to our professionalism or ability to do the job well. It is needed currently due to where the country is and the overall negative opinions that are being promoted by a few people against our community. I think however they will be more important in the future as the divide seems to be getting worse in some cases despite inclusion overall being better.
How can individuals who are not part of the LGBTQ+ community support and ally with LGBTQ+ networks?
My colleagues are a good example of this. They have treated me exactly the same as any other member of the team and made no reference to my sexual preference. This is the best way to be an ally and support members of the community. By making the people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community feel completely accepted and like their sexual orientation or gender identity does not define them.
What message would you like to share with those who may be considering joining an LGBTQ+ network?
Go for it and join one as being in contact with like-minded people who may have the same struggles or issues with you is always going to be beneficial for you.
For information on the importance of LGBTQ+ networks in construction please visit the Go Construct website.