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Gay men in this industry still feel forced to hide

Barbara Cahalane

It’s great that Bam Construct UK along with other Bam companies participated in Pride in Manchester and London this year.

However, I have been working in Bam for 11 years and, by now, I know hundreds of my colleagues by name. However, I don’t personally know of any male colleagues who are gay. So I wonder what all of us can do to make it easier for gay men in Bam to be open about their sexuality (if they want to be).

We’ve been making good progress on diversity. Women are progressing through our business; there’s a programme of unconscious bias training under way for our senior managers; we’ve being doing great work on mental health awareness.

Last year, two of my female colleagues married their girlfriends and it was great to see workmates celebrating with them. Attitudes are changing for the better.

But my concern is that, in 2016, when we asked staff to indicate their sexual orientation in a confidential, anonymous survey, a small number of respondents identified as bi-sexual men, but no one identified as a gay man.

Some 8.6 per cent of respondents selected the option ‘prefer not to say’. I would guess that many other companies in the construction sector would report similar findings. 

No gay men?

So are there no gay men in our company? I doubt it.

A total of 1,739 men work in Bam Construct UK. The latest research from the Office for National Statistics shows that 1.5 per cent of men in the UK identify as gay. Nowadays in the UK, MPs, journalists, actors, lawyers – even rugby players – openly identify their sexual orientation and no one bats an eyelid – nor should they.

But sadly, it’s still not like that in the construction industry. In a survey conducted last year by Construction News, 54 per cent of LGBT+ respondents said they did not feel comfortable being open about their gender identity or sexuality when visiting a construction site.

“As a single woman in her late fifties, I still feel uncomfortable when couples ask me why I have never married”

A person’s identity is complex and made up of multiple strands. I believe no one should have to reveal their sexual orientation if they do not want to. We all have experiences at times that make us feel as if we are on the outside.

As a single woman in her late fifties, I still feel uncomfortable when couples ask me why I have never married, as if I have failed in some way to conform to an expected norm.

That outsider feeling

I can see how much more difficult it must be for a man who constantly feels he has to conceal part of who he is when he’s at work. We know that prolonged discomfort of this kind – a feeling of being on the outside – can be a contributor to poor mental health.

Participating in Pride is a good way of publicly demonstrating Bam Construct UK’s commitment to becoming a more open and diverse company.

And I hope it will inspire all of us to keep working towards a culture in our company where everyone can be open about their sexuality.

Barbara Cahalane is director of corporate communications at Bam Construct UK

Readers' comments (2)

  • whats the point in (coming out) if you work on a building site, there are very bad people working in the industry and a gay person would be treated terribly once it is known, it just isnt worth the aggro

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  • This industry has come in leaps and bounds from the time at which I started and I think that in the Head Iffice setting gay men wouldn't have a problem; on site however and amongst trades it may be a little more difficult, once out there though it would be fine. Take a chance and take that step.

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