How can the project profession be more inclusive?

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Building Equality is an alliance of construction consultants, engineers, contractors, developers and institutions who are passionate about working together and harnessing their collective power to drive LGBT+ inclusion in the construction, engineering and the built environment industries. This will enable us to create wholly welcoming, inclusive and supportive work environments for LGBT+ individuals.

Project managers are often working across these sectors and although you may not always be on site, the behaviour of your team in an office environment is just as important.

Recent statistics from Construction News tell us that there are daily challenges faced by LGBT+ individuals in our industry that still need to be addressed: 

  • 54% of LGBT+ individuals did not feel comfortable being open about their sexuality and/or gender identity on site.
  • 59% of LGBT+ individuals say they have overheard “gay” being used as an insult in the workplace.
  • 31% of LGBT+ individuals feel that working in the construction industry has had a negative impact on their mental health.
  • 60% of LGBT+ individuals in the construction industry felt their sexuality and/or gender identity created career progression barriers.
  • 28% of LGBT+ individuals have experienced offensive or inappropriate comments about their sexuality or gender identity in work.

Despite these issues, real progress is being made in combating these through educating our workforces, highlighting areas of best practice and supporting visible role models. Here are some ways in which you can encourage inclusion in your workplace: 

1. Education is key to success

Talk to colleagues about LGBT+ matters in an open and honest forum, to enable discussion. There are various tools you can use including the Building Equality LGBT+ Inclusion Toolbox Talk, which promotes and educates on key LGBT+ topics. You can begin the conversation around sexuality and gender identity, educate yourself and others on the impact of discriminatory behaviour and encourage a supportive workplace were everyone is treated fairly and equally.

2. Create visibility

We can provide a platform for LGBT+ role models in our teams. There are few LGBT+ role models in our industry, and even fewer at senior-level. This is important to drive change, providing real-life visibility and reflection, for others to aspire to. This will enable us to attract and retain the diverse skills and experiences we need in our industry.

3. Raising awareness

Hosting a toolbox talk in a meeting or an informal setup is a great way to start the discussion on LGBT+ issues but another way to raise awareness is to utilise posters, such as these by Building Equality. These can be displayed around the office or on site and are a real water cooler moment to encourage conversations, awareness and to tackle key issues, such as microaggressions, head on.

4. Celebrate diversity

Diversity can often be feared, misunderstood or stigmatised; through educating ourselves we can create wholly inclusive workplaces and celebrate difference. By providing support, learning about one another and celebrating diversity awareness days we can ensure that everyone is empowered to embrace their true authentic self, enabling all to positively contribute to our industry.

Equality, diversity and inclusion is not a topic that should avoided by any individual or any sector. Project professionals can find themselves in a strong position to create supportive and inclusive working environments, where everyone feels welcome. We all have a role to play in promoting inclusion, by facilitating conversations and encouraging visibility.

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Image: J.Darcy, courtesy of Building Equality

Luke Ives

Posted by Luke Ives on 2nd Dec 2019

About the Author

Luke Ives is a Bid Manager at Jacobs, with over 6 years experience working within construction, engineering and the built environemnt. He graduated from Aston University, in 2013, with a BSc in Business Public Policy and Management and achieved his APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ) in 2018. 

In his previous roles at Balfour Beatty Investmanents and Civic Engineers, he co-chaired the LGBT+ Network and created and developed the organisations Inclusion Network, respectively.  

He is also the Chair of Building Equality Greater Manchester and a member of the Executive Board. Through this role he spearheaded the Building Equality LGBT+ Inclusion Toolbox Talk and poster campaign, which has been delivered to site operatives and office workers across the UK. Luke has also implemented a series of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion regional industry events, that bring together the whole Built Environment to discuss LGBT+ topics, such as Trans Awareness in business. He is an active public speaker and regularly supports other local LGBT+ groups and charity events using his platform to influence positive change in the Built Environment and beyond.

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