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Glitter, drag queens and construction CEOs

Lucy Alderson

There are still some people in the industry who remain sceptical as to why Construction News covers LGBT+ issues.

Some have told us no one cares about LGBT+ people working in construction. Some have said we are attacking the industry by covering issues like homophobia. Some have said they have cancelled their subscriptions simply because we write about this.

I can guarantee that for those still asking ‘why’, attending Pride on Saturday would have made them think twice.

Around 30,000 people from different industries, cultures and backgrounds marched together in London, with roughly 500 from the construction industry.

The fact is that inequality and discrimination persists across the construction industry. CN’s most recent LGBT+ survey, published in January, revealed that just over half (54 per cent) of LGBT+ respondents did not feel comfortable being open about their sexuality or gender on site.

Around 28 per cent of LGBT+ respondents had experienced an offensive or inappropriate comment about their gender or sexuality in the workplace over the past year.

But talking about the issue – and sharing best practice of how to help support LGBT+ people in the industry – can have a huge impact.

Noah Kennel, a young transgender man working at Atkins, told me he might not be here today if it wasn’t for Atkins’ LGBT network.

Two years ago, Noah told his family he identified as a man, not a woman.

After finding himself homeless with no support network to turn to for help, it was through Atkins’ LGBT network that he felt accepted for he who was and colleagues helped him through what he describes as a very low point.

Companies might not know the huge impact they can have in recognising and supporting all areas of their workforce.

It was also encouraging to see many industry leaders – irrespective of their sexuality – marching to support its workforce.

Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds joined the parade as well as Ramboll managing director Matthew Riley, while many others showed their support and represented the wider industry and their LGBT+ colleagues.

Mr Reynolds agreed that homophobia probably still existed in the industry and said construction needed to be more open.

“It’s about supporting minority groups so they get a voice and act within the business. They need to be empowered and supported,” Mr Reynolds said.

Construction News was honoured to be invited to attend Pride. Hopefully, the number of construction workers and companies wanting to attend the march will continue to rise year on year.

It’s not every day you see a CEO of a major UK contractor walking behind drag queens dressed in bikinis down Oxford Street. A few years ago it would have seemed unthinkable.

Real progress is now being made, so let’s hope more construction leaders will be joining in next year.

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